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The Real Solution to Spiking Prices

Our Point of ViewFor all the sound and fury over runaway gas prices, one might think that the stopgap solutions now emerging almost daily from all points of the compass would provide some long-term relief. But measures like investigating oil company practices or halting purchases to fill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve don’t address the fact that the country simply consumes too much oil. As long as the national thirst for gasoline remains unabated, consumers will be at the mercy of every crisis that drives up prices at the pump.

This is not to suggest—as some have—that getting behind the wheel of an SUV is a criminal act. Consumers’ respond to price signals and $3-a-gallon gas is reason enough to trade in the family guzzler. The growing preference for more fuel-efficient vehicles is partly to blame for Detroit’s vast pool of red ink.

What does need stressing is that energy consumption can be a matter of choice—a fact not always obvious to a society built around the automobile. But there are also trains, bicycles and the simple act of walking to get people from here to there without using gas.

The late and much-lamented comic strip “Pogo” once famously observed, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” Deciding to take the train instead of driving won’t lower the price of a barrel of oil below $70 tomorrow. But becoming aware that there are choices in these matters could sharply reduce energy consumption and susceptibility to spiking prices over the long-term.

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