Is There an Up Side to High Fuel Prices?

This is a question you hear people talking about all the time, but rarely hear discussed in any detail in the major media.

To the Point is a show that occasionally airs very thoughtful discussions that seem to try to catch up with the questions that listeners are asking, rather than lagging behind the public in NPR la-la land. Today’s discussion of the possible economic changes that high gas prices will cause was extremely interesting, and addressed many of the things that people hope, and fear, are inevitably coming.

The increased price of oil is already causing some economic changes in the U.S. that have good implications as well as bad ones, such as GM’s recent decision to close several factories that manufacture SUVs. That’s bad news for those who work in those factories, but the news that GM might completely discontinue producing Hummers naturally made me smile.

One question is whether a society like ours, built so thoroughly around the automobile, could possibly find other means of transportation, even if the high price of fuel did eventually spur public demand for other alternatives. Will the far-flung suburbs become America’s newest slums as the cost of commuting insane numbers of miles every day drives down land values? Will the invisible hand solve everything as economic factors cause market adjustments to greener alternatives? Will the government have to step in with large-scale funding of alternative technologies? Are we in for an ugly recession no matter what we do? Will I be able to ride the train to visit my mother some day?

Audio of the program here.


~ by lolarusa on June 3, 2008.

One Response to “Is There an Up Side to High Fuel Prices?”

  1. I was house sitting last week a little further out of Seattle than normal and thus had an opportunity to drive to work. I can tell you that there has been little if any change in traffic due to high gas prices. I think it will take a lot of time for people’s habits to change. I just read about some guy who has a terribly 3 hour commute that is costing his family a great deal of money. The fact that this man would buy a house where he did and take the job that he did really suggests how the low price of gas has created these sorts of situations that are now unsustainable. It will take time for people to factor in the cost of transportation into the home they buy or the job they take and maybe after that we’ll start to see some change.

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