Friday, May 30, 2008

$4 Gas

Unlike other Americans, Texans are accustomed to seeing high oil prices as a good thing. Historically, enough of us have had oil under our land, worked in the oil business, or sold things to people who worked in the oil business, that we tended to see to see every uptick in the price of a barrel of West Texas crude as another dollar in our pocket. During the oil bust of the early 80s, bumper stickers on Texans' pick-ups prayed plaintively, "Lord, please bring back $30 oil. I promise I won't piss it away this time." Back in 1990, when Poppy Bush was getting ready to go to war against Saddam Hussein the first time, a number of us were heard to mutter under our breaths that we weren't sure why it was in Texas's interest to fight a war to lower the price of oil.

However, the current surge in oil prices has been a little different. In the decades since the last oil boom, Texas oil fields have played out, the Texas economy has diversified, and Texas suburbs have sprawled further and further. As a result, more Texans see the current run-up in petroleum prices through the lens of the higher gas prices they pay at the pump, the same way their fellow Americans do. I, however, think that $4 gas is a good thing.

Americans have been exhorted to conserve oil since the OPEC oil boycott of the 70s, to no avail. We've continued to commute from more distant subdivisions in more gigantic vehicles. But this price surge seems to be getting folks' attention. The buses are more crowded. More bikes are on the streets. The state agency I work for is allowing more of us to work from home. People seem to actually be changing the way they live. A change this big will be difficult, but I think that $4 gas is starting to make it happen.


kateg said...

you elitist! How dare you suggest that 'mericans dont have rights to our own personal Hummer! you think you are so special because you went to college. or ride a bike. or some shit.

seriously though--the effect on food prices strikes me as a big problem in that it is 'changing' some people's lifestyles into ones where sufficient food is not an option.

Texan By Chance said...

You are right about food. I was thinking more in terms of middle class Texans/Americans and our love affair with the car. The world climb in food prices is obviously related to high oil prices, and perhaps the US goverment's subsidy for corn-based ethanol.

Philip said...

Maybe gas will rise to $5 or $6/gallon (or even $7, like it already is in Lithuania where you can go from one side of the country to the other in about 45 minutes on a Moped) so I can buy a replacement Suburban at a discount!

I wonder how long gas prices have to remain high before Houston's residential patterns shift to cluster around rail?