Cars, Personal Finance

11 Reasons to Celebrate Higher Gas Prices

As a finance and conservation nerd, I’m excited about higher gas prices. I realize that I’m in the minority in this opinion and I know full well that most people will think I’m nuts. There may even be a few that say I don’t have sympathy for those living paycheck to paycheck since rising gas prices can mean they don’t have enough money at the end of the month. I have to admit that I don’t enjoy paying higher prices, but since there’s nothing I can do about it and prices aren’t likely to come down, I’m choosing to focus on the positives that may result from these prices. So what could possibly be positive about rising gas prices? Read on.

It gets SUV’s off the road

I’m thrilled that people are trading their SUV’s for smaller cars. I’ve never cared for these behemoths, especially the largest ones. I can’t see around or over them, they are safety hazards prone to rolling over, they kill people who drive smaller cars, and they are horrible for the environment. Fewer of these things on the road is a good thing.

It will force investment in new technologies

We should have learned our lesson in the 1970’s and started aggressively pursuing alternative fuels then, but we didn’t. I’m hoping that higher prices will finally force businesses and the government to invest in new technologies. Sustained investment would create new businesses and new jobs that would grow and benefit the economy.

It’s better for the environment

This is completely obvious. Fossil fuels are big polluters, both in their use and their production. I’m hoping that higher gas prices and the resultant turn to other sources of energy will cut down on the pollution in the environment.

The increased prices force people to think about their finances

For too long we’ve been spending too freely, in part because our transportation expenses have been a fraction of those in the rest of the world. This has resulted in an unsustainable level of debt, both personal and institutional. Maybe higher gas prices will force people and institutions to be more careful and wise with their money, resulting in a stronger overall economy.

It’s better for our waistlines

Obesity is one of the number one killers in this country and it’s costing us a fortune in health care costs. Why are obesity rates so high? In part because we don’t have to walk or cycle for our primary forms of transportation. In other countries, biking and walking are the primary forms of transport, thus they get more exercise and don’t have the obesity problems we do. China, which is starting to use cars in large numbers is also starting to see an increase in obesity rates. See a connection? Maybe higher gas prices will force us to walk and bike more and help ease the obesity-related problems we face.

It may make us rethink development

We’ve become a nation of suburbs. With gas prices rising, suburban living is becoming more and more difficult. Maybe high fuel prices will force developers to rethink their plans, concentrating on compact mixed-use developments with schools and offices near the homes. Maybe developers will become more willing to install sidewalks and bike paths. These improved developments would reduce commute times (and thus pollution) and make it easier for people to walk to work and school. We’d also stop the sprawl that is taking over the country.

It may finally force the U.S to increase fuel economy standards

I’ve long envied Europe where cars routinely get fifty-plus miles per gallon and they aren’t hybrids. I would certainly purchase such a car if it were available here. But thanks to our government which has been loathe to require higher MPG’s, we’re still stuck with cars that, at best, get 30 MPG, non-hybrid. Maybe higher gas prices and the resultant consumer demand will force our government to get with the program and require higher fuel economy standards from our car manufacturers. Bring on the European models!

We might become more community oriented

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about financial prosperity leading to a loss of civility. I hope that higher gas prices will force commerce to become more local and lead us to respect and depend upon those around us again. If we have to depend on each other for carpooling, barter, and our unique skills, we might be nicer to each other.

It may force more employers to allow telecommuting

It’s very easy for many jobs to be done from home these days thanks to huge improvements in technology. However, too many employers still believe in “face time.” They believe that if you aren’t visible at all times, you must not be working. I’m hoping that higher gas prices will force many employers to rethink telecommuting. The resulting decrease in cars on the road will be great for the environment, and the happiness and reduced stress of workers will be great for our health. Think what your day would be like without having to sit in rush hour traffic every day.

High prices may force us to invest in our decaying rail system

I’ve spent a lot of time in Europe where train travel is the method of choice for traveling long distance. You can go anywhere on a train in Europe, for a very reasonable price. With the high speed rails they have, it doesn’t take long, either. In the U.S, we’ve neglected our rail system (which is just about the most efficient way to travel) in favor of fuel guzzling cars and airplanes. I hope that high gas prices force investment in our rail system and ultimately make it possible to go anywhere in this country by train. I hope to see high speed rail become common here, with train routes available to every major city.

Crisis brings out the best in the U.S.

I wasn’t alive when the U.S. went to the moon, so I missed out on the feeling of unity of purpose that my parents talk about. I’ve heard the stories form my grandparents about how everyone pulled together during the Great Depression and WWII. Those were all times of crisis for this country and everyone united to make the best of them and do what needed to be done. Those crises brought out the best in this country. Lately we’ve become a divided nation, split down party lines. I’d like to live through a time when everyone in this country pulled together to meet a crisis head on and accomplished something great. Maybe high gas prices, the resulting economic troubles, and rising environmental problems will lead the U.S. to do something great to reduce or eliminate our need for oil. I’d like to see it.

I don’t deny that high gas prices will cause some pain in the near term as people adjust their spending and driving habits to cope. Those with lower in comes will really struggle. But if we can look beyond the short term pain and see the opportunities to re-create this country without its oil addiction, it’s exciting to think about the possibilities. We might be able to not only reduce our dependence on oil, but improve the environment and our own health. We might lose weight and reduce stress. We might get to know our neighbors again and be kinder to one another. The long term economy might improve as we open new markets, create new technologies, and create new jobs. This may be our chance to create a better, more sustainable lifestyle. I’m excited to see what happens next.

26 thoughts on “11 Reasons to Celebrate Higher Gas Prices

  1. Overall an interesting concept that I have not seen before, looking for the positives of high gas prices. In the long term, these high gas prices may be a lesson in frugal living for many people. It’s a situation where many people who would not otherwise consider themselves frugal are now forced into it! At the end of the day, this could be a priceless lesson for many.

  2. I agree with everything in this article. I hate being blinded on the road by huge SUV’s and thenother SUV’s being impatient with me because I can’t see around the SUV in front of me.

    Two summers ago my son was in Germany during the summer and said it was common to see people of all ages riding a bicycle, 5-80. He liked it and rode a bike alot while there and took the train. Because the middle and some upper class ride the public transportation it is safe and clean. He said the sense of community was much stronger and it was safer than in the US and you have to wonder if it isn’t partly because of biking and public transportation. He’s very pro-USA but it opened his eyes to a different way that can be positive.

  3. It’s nice that you can celebrate higher gas prices on the backs of the poor who can least afford it. Some of us are in dire needs because we can no longer afford to get to our jobs because it costs more than we make.

  4. toopoor –

    Can you walk to your job? Maybe you should think about changing your job to someplace closer. Or maybe even car pool!!! Wow, what a fascinating idea.

  5. I have mixed feelings on this. I think it will ultimately be good, but I wish that there was some requirement to invest in alternative energy as part of the price.

  6. Everyone thinks that it’s easy to change jobs, but there are some areas where it’s nearly impossible to get a job even if you want one. And moving closer isn’t an option when you can’t afford the housing. Yuppies may love higher gas prices, but should it really be the poor that have to bear the brunt of it?

  7. Person :

    I am lucky in that SO FAR, I am able to afford the gas price increase.

    However, there is NO mass transit where I live, I cannot walk to work, jobs are scarce enough as it is. Telling people to find another job is irresponsible on your part. Plu, all my co-workers live north of where we work, while I live south of where we work. Therefore they would be going out of their way to come and get me in order to car-pool.

    Gee, your brilliant ideas don’t work for everyone.

    Wow, what a concept! @@

  8. Change hurts…I agree with everything in the article, yet, I also worry about those who are so poor the gas crunch will make life unbearable.

    In the end life isn’t easy for many….and knowing it is still better than many in the world, doesn’t make it any more fun to be faced with bills and rising gas prices.

  9. I can understand where toopoor is coming from. The people who can least afford to compensate for higher prices are the ones who are getting slaughtered. If someone can afford to buy a shiny new hybrid to make them feel better about their gas consumption, then they could probably afford the $5/gallon gas to begin with ($4.85 is what we’re paying now). Many low income families have to compromise by driving whatever used beaters they can get cheap, and by living further out. If toopoor lives close enough to walk or bicycle to work, chances are s/he wouldn’t be feeling the strain of higher gas prices.

    I live in a bedroom community- everybody commutes, even the locals. My DH is considered local and he works 30 miles from home. He works where no public transportation goes and since he works an individual shift, which often doesn’t have a set end, he is unable to carpool. We have had no choice but to scale back other areas of spending.

    The increased gas prices are also killing us at the grocery store. Beyond work and eat, what else is there?

  10. I knew where this whole anthropogenic CO2 propaganda was going years ago – condition and further control the ignorant masses. Wow, raise the pain higher, take more of my money, tax me on all the CO2 I produce each year including breathing. This article is for the brain dead who get all their information from T.V. and movies. CO2 is actually very beneficial for the environment since it increases the yield of crops and also produces larger vegetables and fruits at a faster rate. Anyway even if CO2 was the bogyman made out to be how could he cause Armageddon when all human activity combined equals a mere 2% contribution of CO2.

  11. Tell the farmer to walk to work. Ok, but then when he gets there, the TRACTOR still needs fuel.

    Tell the truck driver to walk to work.

    I got a job offer 20 miles from where I live…the closest I’ve found. They wanted me to take a $40,000 pay cut, which is above what most thought I would be offered. I am still working 162 miles from home. I can’t “walk to work”. What do you suggest I do?

  12. You just don’t get it. Less gas usage doesn’t mean less consumption and consumption is the real problem. A Prius or scooter still requires that an enormous amount of materials to be mined and taken from the earth. Only in America would people think high gas prices are going to help the environment.

  13. Want gas prices lower, contact your Senators and Congressman and demand that the Pension funds and Hedge funds be banned from buying futures contracts of oil or have the Government declare it to risky for pension funds. And for hedge funds make them put up a lot more money for a contract. Public demand and outcry will make it happen. Its just that simple! Call them and email and write snail mail.

  14. Job locations are a lot more temporary than housing.

    If we had bought a home close to where my husband worked in 2004, he would now have a half-hour commute.

    Instead we bought a home close to where I work … luckily that’s the job that is the one we can count on.

  15. Hey Jennifer!

    Great article! I agree with you 100% except the part about the SUVs. I’ve always loved the Toyota 4Runner and my wife and I expect to get another one soon if their value keeps dropping the way it is!

    We are a family of 4 and are currently making due in a tiny subcompact, I understand your rational all but at least we are nt as bad as those dumb Hummers, and Suburbans being driven my single guys and gals just to be “cooler” than everyone else!

    Everything else is spot on!

  16. Where you live and where you are employed are lifestyle choices for people above the poverty line. We Americans have been lazy and spoilt for such a long time that when we all decided to live in the burbs because we felt we got a greater bang for our buck. We deluded ourselves into thinking that auto fuel would stay low indefinitely and made poor choices to reflect that illogical notion.

    From my experience, folks online who identify themselves as “poor” are far from it and are actually middle class who have the ability to modify their lifestyle and still live comfortably. Sure many of you may now regret your decision to live in a bedroom community, regret living beyond your means, and regret complaining about the traffic and demanding that “we needed more roads because of the congestion” instead of pushing for a mass transit infrastructure, but unless you are checking your email from a public library’s computer or a friend’s place, I doubt your impoverished state.

  17. As someone who lives in the UK we have much more expensive fuel that you in the States. We have to pay $12+ a gallon at the moment for our fuel so if you are having problems with $4-5 a gallon then you can imagine what our problem is. As public transport is so poor we have no choice but to use our cars to get to work. And like yourselves, many of us work too far from home to walk or use a bicycle.

  18. consumer q said much of what I want to say. Most who say they are “poor” are not, they just way overspent. Changing jobs may not be the answer, but cutting the spending elsewhere certainly is! My husband is the only wage earner in our household, and we have four children. He earns less than $30K a year. We live quite nicely… on a budget, yes. Do we have fun & enjoy life? Yes. But we do so frugally. Gas is high, but I’m sorry… if spending a few more dollars a month on gas is going to break you, you have other problems. Gas at $2.15/gal with a car that gets 24 mpg and driving 1,000 miles a week (for the benefit of those of you who drive very far to work), you spent $172/mo on gas. No, at $4.15 you spent $750. Big difference. But cutting DirecTV at $76, highspeed internet at $54, eating out at $175, clothes purchases $80, use of dryer (hang clothes to dry and they last longer anyway) $30, and yes, cutting back on gas just 25 miles a week $25, and you save $440 right there! I’m sure you’re all smart enough to come up with a few other budget cuts to make the difference — it’s not that bad!

  19. I disagree with most of what consumer q had to say. “You doubt that people who comment on line are really poor? Ummm how did you research that? How dare you look down your nose at those who would declare themselves “poor” like that is something they would like to be! They could have an old clunker of a computer like I do. Pathetic. And John L from the UK you might be spending 12 bucks a gallon for gas but that pays for your universal health care unavailable to the “poor” over here. My governor actulally came up with a brilliant idea of “affordable insurance” for the poor with premiums of $250 per month. Is she kidding? I don’t think most of you know what poor really means or care. If q did he or she would tone down the rhetoric and get real. I think q lives in a bubble and has no idea of what it is to really struggle. Just my opinion.

  20. What you all failed to mention or recognize is that due to the high cost of fuel, jobs are being brought back to the U.S. It’s gotten too expensive to outsource manufacturing jobs; the cost of shipping goods back to our country is over the top. The solution? Restart blue collar worker positions for making furniture, parts for machinery, etc.

    To every dark cloud there is bound to be a silver lining. In this instance, I would say that there indeed has been one.

    Oh, and yes, it’s a struggle for me to put gas in my car on the living wage I am making. Living wage… that’s a joke! 🙁

  21. Bravo, #18, I’m with you all the way. I haven’t made more than $32,000 for years but have managed to do just fine on that salary. People can if they try. Why should we as Americans be surprised the rest of the world wants a slice of the pie? Do you blame them?

    What with our local GM factory closing, I’m wondering how much more some of the neighborhoods will be deteriorating in my town. I agee with most of what you say and personally don’t have a problem doing without a car (decided when my 10-year-old vehicle quit I’d not buy another real soon) and now don’t plan on buying another. Luckily, I work from my home and am within walking distance of most everything I need plus have bus stops nearby. I believe high school teachers should put it in kids’ minds to live and work locally in their communities after they finish their educations.

  22. Your message is intelligent and insightful. I would like to point out however that developers have long promoted compact high-density sustainable development which supports the quality of life that you describe. It has been the oppressive zoning regulations and community controversies that have prevented high-density/open-space type developments.

  23. We need cheaper, renewable fuel sources. Making the oil companies rich only worsens the economy.

    BTW, all of the things on this list can be done regardless of what the cost of fuel is. The reason people don’t bother is the same reason we have fuel problems in the first place.

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