Good News: Gas Prices Will Continue to Rise

Pain at the pump. That’s how many are referring to the record gas prices we are currently experiencing. I got my own taste of this “pain” just last night as I stood at the pump and filled our car with gas. I watched the numbers tick over and over and over until it reached an amount I hadn’t seen before when pumping gas and my mind drifted to the number of hours I would need to work to pay for this full tank.

According to this article by the Chicago Tribune, these prices aren’t going to drop anytime soon. “It’s not going to be a one-year blip and go away like the Internet bubble,” one commentator is quoted as saying. In fact, with the emergence of China and India as economic powers there have been predictions that gas could hit $7 a gallon in the US (currently I believe it is about $4). Now that would be painful.

To be honest, though, I am happy to see high gas prices. Why? Because it is the only way I see a widespread change in attitude to cars and driving coming about.

The Pain

One of the most personally meaningful articles I have written on this blog is Feel the Pain, Then Make the Change. The point of the article was this: sometimes we need to experience pain to make positive changes in our life.

There is no doubt that there are some people experiencing financial pain at the moment, particularly in the US where the economy is shakier than me standing in front of a room full of people and house prices have drastically fallen in many parts of the country. Now, I want to state here that I don’t wish people any additional financial pain, but at the same time it is clear to me that there needs to be a change in both peoples’ driving habits and the types of vehicles we are driving. For example, having relocated to North America from Australia a little under a year ago, I am staggered but just how much bigger everything is over here, in particular the vehicles that people drive.

Changing Habits and Technology

Recently, the New York Times published this article titled Gas Prices Send Surge of Riders to Mass Transit. The title says it all really. In recent years some people have begun to use mass transit as they have become more aware of the environmental issues we face. But it has taken record gas prices to send people surging to mass transit:

Mass transit systems around the country are seeing standing-room-only crowds on bus lines where seats were once easy to come by. Parking lots at many bus and light rail stations are suddenly overflowing, with commuters in some towns risking a ticket or tow by parking on nearby grassy areas and in vacant lots.

In fact, according to Clarence W. Marsella, chief executive of the Denver Regional Transportation District, “we are at a tipping point” when it comes to people catching mass transit. Now that is good news.

The move to mass transit is not the only positive change to occur due to the high gas prices. Car pooling, riding a bike to work and a shift to smaller vehicles are becoming more and more common. And as consumers demand vehicles with greater fuel efficiency, the motor companies have a greater incentive to invest in technology that will meet this demand.

What are your thoughts on the high gas prices? Have you been forced to change any of your habits? Please share your thoughts and/ or experiences in the comments below.

Peter Clemens

Peter Clemens is founder of The Change Blog and author of The Possibility of Change books series. Click here to learn more about Peter and his books.

22 Comments

  1. It used to be that a huge SUV was a status symbol around where I live. Now the little tiny Smart Cars are the coolest thing around and we feel sorry for the poor souls that can’t get rid of their giant SUVs. Times are changing. I got gas today and paid more for a tank of gas than I have ever in my life. Luckily I only have a four-mile daily commute. There has definately been a shift among my neighbors to use mass transit. Yes, the high gas prices will force us to change our ways for the better – but I will still miss the freedom to drive wherever I wanted to go and not worry about how much it was going to cost. I think those days are over.

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  2. In a way, I guess being shut in as a caregiver is a blessing in regard to gasoline prices. I do drive a van, a necessity as my housemate is in a wheelchair, but it’s five years old and doesn’t have 20,000 miles on it yet. Still, we are on a tight budget and I just cringe when I do have to pull up to the pump. We’re at $3.79 a gallon of regular in our part of Fort Worth, Texas. Our neighborhood is bisected by a busy and dangerous four lane road, but I am working out ways to start doing some errands by bike. I imagine we’ll be at $4 a gallon in another month.

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  3. Peter – You are right that it often takes a little pain to get us to change our ways. It is unfortunate we all seem to be that way, but very true. Hopefully, the higher gas prices will bring about some needed changes here in the U.S. Particularly, I would like to see some new technology emerge. I think innovations in gas alternatives have been stymied in the past. There was too much money to be made in gasoline powered vehicles for change to occur and too little consumer interest. However, now the time may be ripe for this country to move away from our dependence on oil. As you suggest, the pain may be a good thing to help bring about a new attitude.

    Jeff@My Super-Charged Lifes last blog post..How Much Money You Have Defines Your Life

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  4. A few years ago I used to drive a Honda Accord and traded it in for a Chevy Silverado due to moving out to the country. Now that we’ve moved back to Plano Texas and living “in the city”, we’re looking to trade my truck and my hubby’s Expedition in for something much more gas economical. Of course, we’ll also be weighing the cost of possibly having two car payments vs. keeping what we have, but all in all it looks like we’ll be making the change.

    Lin Burresss last blog post..Prestonwood Baptist Church Minister in Plano Texas Arrested and Charged With Solicitation of a Minor

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  5. I just paid USD6.30 a gallon for fuel here in Australia which is difficult in a large country with small population that is quite accustomed to travelling very long distances by road to get anywhere (Peter’s home state is enormous!). I’m not sure where the tipping point is for Australians – I would have hoped we had reached it some time ago but it appears not. Public transport here is still not nearly as good as it needs to be – we need to look at the many good European examples of how this can work. The focus is still on driving a car around. People are starting to look for more fuel efficient cars – small diesel cars are now not shunned as some impractical, un-Australian experiment and are increasing in numbers. Smart cars are being seen more and more. Sales of the traditional Australian made V8 engined large sedans are declining in numbers.

    My personal challenge is I live outside the city and commute 60 kms (~40 miles) to my office each day and then because I have a sales job I must travel around visiting clients for part of the time. I haven’t yet figured out how I could do all that by public transport, particularly in its current parlous state. The one thing I have started doing is to organise my life so that every third Friday I stay at home and work. I get all my non-client facing admin done. I hope to be able to move that to every second Friday within the next 6 months. I say hope because the whole thing is being done on the basis of “seek forgiveness not permission”!

    Simons last blog post..Shunning technology…the pull of analogue for productivity

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  6. this is the type of change i like to see:
    http://gas2.org/2008/05/07/vw-confirms-1l-concept-will-become-reality-in-2010/

    The VW 1L is so named because, in theory, it only consumes one liter of fuel per 100 kilometers traveled. For those of us in the US, this translates into about 235 MPG. […] It’s likely to use more fuel in real world use, but with that kind of mileage in testing it’s unlikely that anyone would complain about an “unsatisfactory 200 MPG.”

    Skips last blog post..40 Tips

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  7. Hi Peter – here in Melbourne Australia the vehicles are getting frighteningly large too – it seems like every second car is a 4 wheel drive. As we live in an older suburb with narrow houses, sometimes it seems the cars are bigger than the houses!

    My partner and I walk everywhere or catch public transport mostly – which is possible because we work form home mainly. But it’s also easier to catch the train than battle with the traffic. Petrol prices are skyrocketing here – but when I need to buy it (my mother lives in the country) I just do it. We were just laughing yesterday when we spotted a neighbour’s car at the railway station, which is only 10 minutes walk away – and she is a young, fit-looking person.

    Well that was a grab-bag of unrelated thoughts! – oh well – cheers!

    Robins last blog post..How to be a Man and a Woman Both At The Same Time

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  8. You’re right, maybe this is what it takes to force “us” to rethink how we travel. Last year I began biking to work (9 miles one way). I did this originally as I was training for a triathlon. I really enjoyed it, and kept doing into the fall last year. This year, I have another reason with the rising cost of fuel. I hope to do this as much as I can. That said, when I look out on the road, it just doesn’t seem like traffic has gotten any lighter. Are the gas prices forcing people to make changes yet? I’m not sure.

    Lances last blog post..When Bad = Good (or Great)

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  9. In large cities, yes a change in our perception on how we move about is great.
    But in rural areas., a person may have to drive 35 miles to his 9.50 an hour job. It doesnt leaxe much else except mort., and utilities.
    Also I work in advertising, my main source of revenue is generated by cotractors. Diesel is killing them and most are reluctant to raise cost.
    I have a huge beeef. The seven sisters (oil co’s) had record earnings inthe first quarter , I have little confidence in our energy plans if we cant monitor oil co’s . The same applies to banking.
    A last thought. The Chicago Food bank will not make it’s current delivery’s due to diesel being as high as it is. So many food pantries go without ,.How much more do Americans need to lose due to poor regulations?

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  10. We have a GMC Sierra truck we always used to use to tow the boat for our holidays at our northern property.
    Not anymore.
    My husband took the boat up with him (filling it with the $1.34 per liter premium gas a couple of weeks back), then left it there so we wouldn’t have to use the truck anymore.
    We’re sticking to our little Civic, and even that just for getting to work and back.
    Errands can be done close to home, benefitting the smaller businesses by taking some of the money from the malls and larger stores, which are a drive away.
    Thank goodness, the weather is warmer, the season is right for walking and biking.
    In some ways, seeking to improve our bottom line as far as using less gas is concerned, is going to help our health, and that of our children, at the same time.
    Always look for the good.
    It’s there–sometimes it’s just hiding!

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  11. Change?

    I have traded in both vehicles, swapped every light out in the house, bought high-efficiency, energy-star applicances (including a ceiling fan), sealed up my house’s thermal envelope, found and use an excellent ‘low-flow- waterhead in the shower… ‘bought ahead’ for 3 mos worth of non-perishables (changed our consumption habits), set up a web log and am chronicling it all…

    We’re hoping for the month when these investments all pay off. We’re reporting our monthly utilities bills, and I invite you and your readers to come on over and learn about specific recommendations from our experiences.

    Peace,

    James

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  12. Gave up a Jetta diesel, Plymouth Reliant wagon, Microsoft software and my 35mm film camera on retiring, in order to adapt to a lower pension income. Bought myself a bike, a digital camera and switched to Ubuntu software (free on net). Suffered like a drug-addict going straight for about six weeks, finally I gave in and adapted. Soon found that I was actually ahead of the game! I have more time for everything, no hidden expenses, and actually can put money from a meager pension in the bank! I just don’t seem to need money anymore so it piles up! The average American may be in for a gasoline price forced slowdown much as I have just gone through in retiring. They may be delighted with the results! We are a free people, once we unhook from over-consuming.

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  13. Unfortunately, you are correct. I think the only way everyone is going to change is to due to high prices. Even in the last years, car companies are starting to focus on MPG and smaller size rather than performance and how much you can fit into a car.

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  14. You are only looking at one side of this, which is the consumer car aspect. When gas goes up, price rise for everything. Farmers pay more to harvest and grow the food we consume, manufacturers pay more to create the things we use, it’s more expensive to ship and transport those things to where we can buy them. Gas goes up, everything goes up. So while you are rejoicing the fact that this will “force” people to use more mass transit, you are forgetting everything else. You can’t see the forest for the trees.

    Additionally, your opinions only help those that live in big cities. Rural areas, farm towns, etc don’t have the luxury of mass transit. They most likely don’t have the option of riding a bike a to work. They can’t trade in the trucks needed to upkeep farms, property, for “smart cars” because “smart cars” can’t do the work necessary. Additionally, as we create smaller, lighter cars for increased MPG, we give up the levels of safety afforded to us by larger cars. We also decry the “SUV” as big and unnecessary, but you can fit 8 people in an SUV, most you can get in a “smart car” is two. Not very prudent for familes.

    So rejoice that rising gas prices are forcing more people to mass transit, but remember that joy as your grocery bills, prices on goods, prices on life in general rise to unsubstainable levels. Hey, good news is that everyone (where able) is having to use more mass transit, but bad news is that all those people and barely afford to eat! YAY! /sarc

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  15. Do you people realize that higher gas prices mean that the prices on everything else is higher?!? Let’s destroy the ecomony so that people will drive more fuel efficient cars. When prices are higher people buy less. When people buy less, other people lose their jobs. When other people lose their jobs, the tax thirsty government gets less money. When the government gets less money, they find ways to more levy more taxes. So…hurray for higher gas prices?

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  16. Maurice,

    I spent 3 days in Hamburg in 2004 – I loved the city. Thanks for sharing your story .

    Peter

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  17. You’re missing the point. There is no cosmic good in depriving people of private transportation; in fact it’s just the opposite. To cheer high energy prices because they tend to drive the huddled masses to public transportation is eletism. The “Green Meme” : not drilling for oil that we know we have in the US; not fully utilizing our unlimited coal supplies; no nukes; etc; is causing many to lose focus on the goal. The goal is not the elimination of mankind and returning the Earth back to the bugs. While economic forces do direct socities efforts the goal still remains the same: to have the greatest amount of people as possible live as free from worry and pain as possible. While “saving the whales,” and not disturbing the migration pattern of humming birds may very well provide markers of sustainable behavior on our part; they are not the point. And focusing on these markers of activity and losing sight of the overall purpose of human activity is precisely throwing out the baby to save the bath water.

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  18. Skip,
    I disagree with your assessment of public transportation. While in college, I spent several semesters in various parts of Europe and absolutely loved the efficient public transportation systems they have there. It was so easy to get anywhere I wanted in Europe, whether it was in the same city or in a different country. Perhaps the reason you view public transportation as depriving you of your freedom is that our system in the US is lacking a lot. It is inefficient and inconvenient. Several times I have looked into the possibility of using public transportation to go somewhere…the cross-country trains were really expensive and the local bus system’s schedule did not fit with my work schedule. If the US wants to get serious about oil conservation, they will need to invest in the public transportation infrastructure and make it usable for more people.

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  19. I so agree with everything you’ve said Jeff. Growing up in Chicago I took public transit for granted (it’s great there folks). Having lived out in the country (in another state) for almost 30 yrs now I WISH I had some public transportation. Bikes? sure-if you can -but what about the nearest grocery store which is 22 mi. round trip? etc. etc.

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  20. But Mike, provide us also the information on the so-called : ” Tipping point ” of Planet Earth……How many more billions of people can live on this planet ?? How many more plant and animal species can we wipe out before we go their way ??
    As people in China and India strive to reach the same comfortable lifestyle that we have in the U.S. the demand for all fossil fuels will soar and the prices of all natural resources ( commodities ) will follow suit.
    There are no easy solutions, but a combination of new energy technologies and extreme conservation practices could be the key to a secure energy future.
    CM González, Miami, Florida

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