Archive Hosted by the AFL-CIO

Tuesday Talk: What’s the right gas price?

April 26, 2011 By Joe Sheeran, Communications Director

The threat of $4 gas has many Minnesotans embracing carpooling, public transit and non-motorized transportation alternatives. This, in turn, fuels a broader transportation funding debate: increasing mass-transit options vs. expanding congested highways. Public transit is certainly more environmentally sustainable, but ridership spikes often wane as soon as gas prices drop.

Why isn’t $4 gas easing the push to expand car-dependent communities? What’s the right gas price to change behavior? 

Thanks for participating! Commenting on this conversation is now closed.

19 Comments:

  • Linda Kantner says:

    April 26, 2011 at 8:25 am

    I already pay well over four dollars a gallon for diesel for my economy/fuel efficient car. I don’t mind paying for gas if some of the money is going to protect the environment but the oil companies are making record profits. The system is backward, it works for the rich and takes advantage of the average person. People will change their ways when a system actually works, isn’t just a piece meal, fill in the gaps, semi-solution.

  • clair pederson says:

    April 26, 2011 at 8:26 am

    While the gas price now or when it hit over $3 is allowing the oil companies to reap in multiples of BILLIONS of dollars of profits each quarterly report. They sit there and say we do not set the gas prices are a bunch of B.S.
    Most of the refineries in this country are owned by the oil companies. For the last 2 years they have been ONLY running them at 80% capacity creating a minor supply problem until they could minipulate the traders to BOGUSLY inflate the price of oil on the market.
    This thing in the mideast is all on SPECULATION and GREED!!!! While the regular people struggle on how to get to work everyday!!!
    Where are the electric cars at!!!
    Have the oil companies like chevron/texaco again bought them out and shreded them like the EV 1 from general motors in 2001. Electric cars are our way to give the middle finger to every gas station as we drive by. Those naysayers of electric cars are real dumb asses. We can get the electricity to power these recharges from the sun. The earth absorbes in less than one day than all of the earth energy use for a whole year. Electric motors are way more powerful than any gas or diesel motor. The torque on an electric motor is there as soon as you hit the switch or push the footpeddle. How do they think we power trains or ships. Diesel motor that runs the electric generators to run them because it is stronger than just the diesel motors. This capitalistic greed will kill this country again just like in 2008. It does not matter how much money and tax breaks you give the rich if the working people whom make up 82% of our GDP do not have money to buy stuff the country will go into another depression/recession AGAIN!!!!
    EVEN THE RICH NEED US TO WORK AND BUY STUFF OR THEY CANNOT MAKE THE BIG MONEY THEMSELVES.
    Tax breaks to the rich did not make jobs in this country from 2003 thru 2008. We lost over 4 million jobs and were losing over 875,000 jobs amonth befor GW left office and months after his big buddies all had their milions of tax break dollars in their pockets!!!

  • Tony Rozycki says:

    April 26, 2011 at 8:36 am

    Don’t know if it’s true, but there’s an email that been circulating for at least a year claiming gas is less than 10 cents a gallon in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia & Venezuela.  It wouldn’t totally surprise me.  Perhaps we should fill up a few tanker fleets at that price.

    But we obviously need new energy sources.  I’d consider buying an electric Volt if they were cheaper & my garage door a bit wider.

  • Don Luce says:

    April 26, 2011 at 8:59 am

    Most estimates of the true cost of gas put the figure between $10 and $20 per gal. The difference is various “external” costs that are paid in various ways, often by people who do not drive.

    I suggest that we add “fees” to oil to bring the price in better alignment with the true costs. The fees could then be rebated back to individuals, employers and maybe our children - by paying down the national debt. If we committed to a $100 per barrel fee that would be gradually added over 10 years, we could easily cut our consumption in half. Out reduced consumption would reduce the prices going to trans-national oil companies, oil tyrants and terrorists

    The actual prices paid by consumers might not be very different, since if we do nothing to reduce demand, oil prices will continue to go up, with all the money bank rolling our enemies.

  • Karen Knutson says:

    April 26, 2011 at 9:09 am

    Had we taxed gas years ago like the Europeans we would have cars that were much more efficient and this rise would not be such a problem.  We have fought mass transit, ignored efficient cars and bought gas guzzlers and now we say ‘oh my what should we do now’.  This is going to be a tough time and still we are talking about doing nothing but saying we must get the price down.  So be it, we will have to tough it out.

  • David Dixen says:

    April 26, 2011 at 9:41 am

    A while ago at a Canadian university, a game was developed to see how people responded to various social problems.
     
    regarding the price of gas, no segnificant changes where found untill the price when over $7 per US gallon.

  • Dave W says:

    April 26, 2011 at 9:49 am

    Karen is right about Europe.  All of Europe’s 15 most fuel efficient cars get more that 56 mpg.  In the USA, only the Prius gets 44 mpg overall, and it’s a hybrid.  I’d gladly purchase a VW Polo 1.6 at 64mpg, a Ford Fiesta 1.6 at 64mpg, or an Audi A3 1.6 at 57 mpg—all running on conventional engines… What’s wrong here?

  • Gaylen Anderson says:

    April 26, 2011 at 10:02 am

    The reason the European cars get much better gas mileage than here is because of the safety regulations on the U.S. market.  All of the required components to make our cars safer (ABS, traction control, air bags, etc.) add weight and cost, robbing us of the better gas mileage.  Are we willing to sacrifice some safety advancements for fuel economy?

  • Ginny says:

    April 26, 2011 at 10:20 am

    Much of the increased gas prices have to do with Wall Street’s buying and betting on oil stocks.
    Why don’t we tax these transactions?

  • Gordy says:

    April 26, 2011 at 10:29 am

    Were you living and remember the 1974 oil embargo? The ONLY thing that is going to make a difference is the politicians TAX the heck out of it AND put the revenue into renewable energy. “No new taxes” is preventing rational policy planning.

  • Frank Hickey says:

    April 26, 2011 at 10:46 am

    Not a simple answer to the gas question. It is like the statement the Trainer made to the man on the moving treadmill at the gym. “I have repeated told you, you better tie your shoestrings.”  I can see driving at costs standards of $7.00 = $9.00/gal) as seen by the Brits. I would curse and change buying habits to cover the added costs as well as go more economical in size and power system.  The transit system is not an option. Not for the the areas it reaches nor its access to necessities.  The limited or costly parking planned for districts where planners will engineer persuasions into the mix, will cause us to decide to go to other events where it isn’t an issue.  This may or may not hold true for my business which is located near a transit line. My employees and myself need to drive to work and to meetings during the day.  I don’t see the density issues I experienced here as experienced in cities such as Boston or New York, where transit convenience is a factor.

    I am old enough to remember President Nixon and his efforts to tame an inflationary economy in the early 70"s.  While gas prices receded to a more reasonable and realistic level, this was one of several items we found our parents accepting as a new cost reality.  This is also the time when the gold standard changed to the paperback as the international standard of currency exchange.  I also remember President Reagan’s deregulation policies which invested our futures in a disingenuous stock market trust relationship with those who had reserves enough to invest, (and reap profit from) their new found business freedoms. Investments and production abroad fed the country’s conspicuous consumption needs with real returns for shareholders.  Government agricultural subsidy programs were also put into place that have quietly ballooned since these early times that provide a “too big to fail” pact/assurance in most of this industry.
    I am not a scholar or money guy but I do need to respond to these earlier strategies that were self serving and gratifying to a past generation. Demands placed on government by those elected by a very loud and voting public.  The dynamics of budget deficits and management existed in those eras while the audience gave ” lip service” to passing the costs; the toxic wastes of their comforts and social experiments on to later generations. While appearing similar, the situation is very different now   I believe we are needing to take the tag line posted on this page and realize the meaning of being focused on what really matters.

    With the decreasing international value of the dollar I believe a better, more broad question regarding cost / behavior should be asked that takes us well beyond the cost of gas to or detached, non-agririan cultures ability to be productive if the dollar is devalued two, four or even ten-fold. I don’t care to be concerned with birth certificates or even the question regarding the rich being taxed more.  At this time in history, we experience less imagination in leadership with the same levels of low fortitude or honesty in those of position. As a result, the citizens are in a dangerous “herd” mentality about what we should, need and want to do for the better good of our communities and the country at large.

    Thank you.

    FSH

  • dave w says:

    April 26, 2011 at 11:22 am

    Somebody’s just reciting the company line about safety features being non-existant on European fuel efficient vehicles.  For example, the Ford Fiesta Zetec S 1.6TDCi available in the UK gets 67mpg and includes dual airbags, electronic traction control, ABS & Stability control… These guys aren’t behind, we are!

  • Ginny says:

    April 26, 2011 at 11:40 am

    In the long run (assuming we have one) “taxing the heck” out of gas prices and putting that (and other funding) toward renewable energy is probably going to cost us less over time. Especially considering the climate change our energy use is causing.
    It will be expensive for a while, but saving the planet is “priceless.”

  • vpo says:

    April 26, 2011 at 11:49 am

    Read a report recently that high prices are affecting our habits.

  • Terry Morrison says:

    April 26, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    I agree that part of the problem is lack of fortitude.  Not sure I agree with the quality of leadership but possibly the focus of leadership.  Democracy requires an educated populace based on education and the a balanced press with ethics and objectivity at least as a guideline.  The howling right (Glen Beck, et. al.) just tell lies.  The issues get confused with lies and spin - we loose the focus needed to make hard changes.  As you say, the herd then begins to form.

    But fortitude is a real problem because hard decisions and sacrifices must be made.  Then if a plan can emerge (gang of 6) we’ll need compromise to make it public policy.  The skill of compromise is also missing from the broader approach to this coming crisis.

    Finally, Americans are short term thinkers and planners based on quick gratification and profit motives.  I too think back to the late 70’s when OPEC was created and Carter was president.  We had gas lines because they restricted supply. 

    There was a flurry of interest in solar, wind and biomass energy along with earth sheltered housing.  All that faded because OPEC loosened the supply and gas prices dropped.  We then become complacent and forget about alternatives.

    That was over 30 years ago, I often imagine what we could have had over that time period if our ingenuity and creativity would have been brought to bear on the issue of energy independence.  Right now this pending crisis will test democracy and captiolism. 

    As the middle East continues toward chaos gas prices will rise.  I used to think $5.00 a gallon would change behavior but now I’m guessing it’s between $8.00 and $10.00.  Where are the 60 to 70 mpg cars?

  • Kevin Oliva says:

    April 26, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    It’s fine to talk mass transit in the Twin City metro area but what about those of us who live in the country. We can’t hop on the bus to go to work or shopping or whatever. I think that high gas prices and taxing by how many miles you drive is very hard on people who live in rural areas.

  • Will says:

    April 26, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    The net effect will be to reduce consumerism.  If we cannot afford to get there - we cannot purchase.

    Oh, I forgot - we can purchase it on-line and have it delivered. Problem solved.

    What about local retailers?  How will higher gas-oil-energy prices affect them?  Maybe subsidies for them?  Just like the corporate farmers?  The oil companies already get huge subsidies. The ethanol “producers” also get huge subsidies.

    What problems are subsidies meant to solve?  Seems like a vicious circle to me.  Does the squeaky “big wheel” get the oil or the subsidy?  Probably both.

  • Dennis says:

    April 26, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    FSH…...I can relate to most all of what you said.  However you are incorrect when you say that “transit is not the answer”. 
    Granted transit is a long ways off of serving us here in the outlying areas of the State where I live.  But the great majority of the State’s citizens live in the three, or four with Duluth, population areas, and transit can, and will, serve these people…if we only bury our inherited oil and car manufacturer outmoded thinking and start thinking progressively
    The oil and car manufacturers have had the citizens where they wanted them for decades.  They do not want to let go; that is why every so often they raise gas prices to where people yell…then they back off about 1/2 of their price raise for a period of time.  Then after a while, when things settle down,  they raise gas prices and play the roller coaster game with us again.

  • Jerry Hendel says:

    April 27, 2011 at 10:02 am

    Only when gas gets much more expensive, several dollars per gallon more will Americans realize:
    1.  If you live somewhere that requires a long commute in your car that you are wasting time, energy, and money.
    2.  The more freeways we build to make it easier to commute longer distances, the more people will drive longer distances.
    3.  In the last 50 years our urban landscape has changed.  It used to be that businesses were located downtown.  One lived in that city or in a nearby suburb; there were busses and trolleys to get easily into the downtown area.  Now many shopping centers and office complexes are in the suburbs along the freeways. 
    It is easy to have public transportation to get people from the suburbs into downtown.  It is impossible to get people from Suburb A to jobs in Suburbs B and C.
    4.  Slowly, we must reverse this pattern of urban design; it will take 50 yrs to get back to concentrating business and shopping in the central city.
    5.  Only expensive gas will convince Americans that we must all drive smaller vehicles and drive them less.
    6.  Only expensive gas will convince Americans that we need better public transportation—subways, light rail, busses.  More bike lanes.