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Froma Harrop
Froma Harrop
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Rising Gas Prices Don't Hurt Like They Used To

Comment

Here's why I'm not panicked about rising gasoline prices, as many headlines suggest we all should be. It's a personal story. Let me start at the beginning.

The automotive love of my life was my first. It was a 1979 Pontiac Grand Prix, already 10 years old when it drove to my door on that mild spring day. A cloudy ocean color, the mid-size car had a V6 engine, and boy, did it move. A whole lot of hood stood between me and the car ahead.

But ask about its fuel economy, and "economy" is not quite the word. It got about 17 miles per gallon. To obtain such low mileage today, you'd have to drive a giant Chevy Suburban SUV — which actually says a lot about how much more fuel efficient Detroit has become.

I currently drive a 10-year-old Honda Accord, four cylinders, manual transmission. His zippy motor runs 25 miles to the gallon. So let's calculate what the gas price meant to me then and means now.

In 1989, a gallon of gas cost about $1.12. Driving 10,000 miles in the Pontiac would cost me $1,205 in today's inflation-adjusted dollars. Going the same distance in the Honda at the recent "high" price of $3.75 a gallon costs $1,500. That's about $300 more — not an insignificant sum, but not bankrupting, either.

Let's move on. The car I yearn to own is a new Ford Fusion Hybrid, which gets 39 miles to the gallon. I could go 10,000 miles in that for $960. Thus, driving the modern fuel-efficient car would cost me $245 less than the beloved Pontiac, even at the much higher 2012 price of gas. (Yes, you pay more for the high-tech car. I get that.)

The point is that as Americans find ways to burn less energy in their cars and in their homes, price increases don't hurt as much as before.

That is why the prospect of higher gas prices this summer does not have Americans grabbing their children and screaming for deliverance from the Oval Office. They have become a bit less sensitive to energy costs.

They are also somewhat more sophisticated about the reasons gas prices rise and the reality that they often fall. In a recent Washington Post/Pew Research poll, fewer than one in five blamed the president for higher gas prices. A slightly larger number, nearly one in four, said they did not know whom or what to blame.

May we suggest market forces? Demand from China and India continues to rise. The American economy is improving, and driving increases as the weather up north begins to turn warm.

Climbing tensions with Iran has also spiked energy costs. If things turn violent, analysts see the price of gas going up another 50 cents, to possibly $5 a gallon come summer. Today's price already reflects much of that uncertainty, so if the tensions ease, the price could go down.

Higher gas prices are worrisome for the larger and still weak economy. They eat into paychecks that could be cashed for other things. It is said that a one-cent rise in the price of a gallon of gas absorbs about $1 billion in consumer spending over a year. The broader economy is one thing that Americans, rightly or wrongly, tend to blame or thank the president for.

Today's cars are not only more fuel efficient, they're safer than the models of 30-odd years ago. What they lack is personality, but that's another story. Who knows. Someone may revive the '79 Grand Prix with a hybrid-engine heart. Otherwise, as so much else in life, there's no going back.

To find out more about Froma Harrop, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2012 THE PROVIDENCE JOURNAL CO.

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Comments

8 Comments | Post Comment
The price of gas going up affects every other price we pay that's out there, and it's unclear to me why you don't see that.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Batman
Thu Mar 15, 2012 7:08 AM
Same white house spin, different author.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Chris McCoy
Thu Mar 15, 2012 7:14 AM
Hopefully rising gas prices hurt just enough to push this President into early retirement.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Tom
Thu Mar 15, 2012 7:34 AM
Republicans in 2008: "It is not Bush's fault that gas-prices are so high."
Bill O'Reilly: "Get rid of your gas-guzzlers!"
Over the past five years, exports from the US Gulf Coast have soared as refiners sitting in tax-free zones near Port Arthur, Texas, have shifted production away from gasoline and toward higher-margin diesel. Since 2007, overall US exports of diesel and other products have jumped 134 percent, the US Energy Information Administration reports. Of US exports, two-thirds is shipped abroad from Gulf Coast refineries now more than 2 million barrels a day and up from just a quarter of today's level a decade ago.
We could ban speculation, end the free trade zone in Texas, tax every gallon exported, let India and China pay our gas tax, end domestic gas tax for US citizens, but it's unlikely that will happen because Republican Boehner, the Republican Koch Brothers, speculators and politicians in general have way too much money invested in oil to ever do the right thing for America. What they will do is send us down a lot of dead end roads offering phony solutions to lowering gas prices all the while feathering their pockets w/oil money and keeping concerned citizens running through a maze of dead end solutions.
This president is not heavily invested in oil and they don't own him. He is trying to break the hold the oil companies have on consumers by exploring all energy sources. How quickly we forget the mess the Gulf was in just a few short years ago. And the time before that and the time before that. As expected anytime a society doesn't like the message, they want to shoot the messenger.
Comment: #4
Posted by: demecra zydeem
Sat Mar 17, 2012 4:18 PM
This paid by the word by the DNC HACK forgets how Obama ran around the country in 2008 saying $3.50 a gallon gas was an "unacceptable burden" and it was ---- you guessed it "all the fault of George W. Bush". Now that her socialist hero is on the hook, well, the DNC line is that it just deoesn't matter. It'll matter in November, FromaDomaRoma.
Comment: #5
Posted by: Godot
Sun Mar 18, 2012 8:22 AM
Ya don't lower gas prices by NOT drilling, Mensa boy. Tell the DNC they need new writers, non-fiction this time.
Comment: #6
Posted by: Godot
Sun Mar 18, 2012 8:27 AM
I must admit, though, George Orwell would be pleased with the attempt, Fromadoma. "He who robs Peter to pay Paul will always find a friend in Paul"....George Bernard Shaw.
Comment: #7
Posted by: Godot
Sun Mar 18, 2012 8:30 AM
Perhaps a comparison between a Cadillac and a scooter would be as valid. Why not compare the 79 Grand Prix to a 2012 Grand Prix. The gas tank is not the only place that consumers are hurt by high fuel costs.
Comment: #8
Posted by: craig
Tue Mar 20, 2012 9:33 AM
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