Falling gas prices reveal encouraging trend

February 9, 2009

If you drive a car, you’ve noticed falling gas prices. In Abilene, prices have receded at least as low as $2.56, and it’s not just Abilene, gas prices everywhere are dropping. Oil slipped under $70 last Thursday, which is less than half the price it was only three months ago. At $3.08, the national average price of gasoline has fallen roughly a dollar since the July record of $4.11.

Many reasons exist behind the dramatic fall in gas prices. The optimistic explanation is Americans began to curb their gas consumption and drive less when confronted with rising prices. People began to take responsible action in the form of carpooling, biking and walking and simply cutting back on gratuitous trips to everywhere and anywhere. 

A more cynical explanation to the price decline would be people are hurting financially from the economic downturn, and when people hurt, they cut back on unnecessary outputs like gas consumption. Those who recently saw their investments and savings take a heavy hit are less likely to take a cross country road trip in the near future.

The economy may be a factor, but a purely economic explanation ignores the fact that gas prices began to fall as early as the beginning of August, before the current economic crisis became a constant top story in the nightly news.

Whatever the contributing factors, a major cost and concern to Americans all across the country clearly has receded.

Prices likely will rise in the coming winter months, and those who already are struggling with rising medical and food costs will suffer. Yet, on the whole, the “energy crisis” has become more of an energy concern. 

This is not an end to the conversation about our energy future, however. We only have been given a break, and it may be a short one. If we fall back into our bad gas-guzzling habits, we easily can expect to see prices sky rocket once more.

We still have to pursue new resources for our energy needs. We still must figure out a way to make wind, solar and hybrid technology financially viable methods to siphon off our dependence on foreign oil. We have allowed politically unstable countries and oil companies gluttonous for profits dictate our energy supply for too long.

What many Americans learned through this energy ordeal is that while a necessity, we probably overconsume this natural resource. As with many other blessings we enjoy in America, we can cut back. We can prioritize and make proper adjustments. Hopefully, this lesson will translate into our current economic crisis spurred by self-indulgent lending and spending practices. As a country, we spend money we don’t have and we consume more than is necessary. This is a trend we need to fix.

The current pattern of declining gas prices hopefully will mark a phase in American culture in which we no longer treat a gratuitous amount of our natural resources as a necessity. Perhaps we can come through our current crisis with a renewed sense of stewardship. 

Our current status marks two trends, one of an increasing sense of national responsibility and one of subsequently declining prices. We can only hope that both will be long lasting.

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