Saving fuel makes sense, regardless of price
A glance at the gas pump provides a lesson in free market forces -- or does it?
The average U.S. price of gasoline is $1.96 a gallon, according to the national Lundberg Survey of fuel prices. That's better than the $3.20 we were paying a year ago, and a whole lot more palatable than the record $4.11 we were paying last July, but it's still uncomfortably close to $2 a gallon.
That same month, crude oil was selling at $147.27 a barrel, more than three times the current prices.
Drilling rigs that went into action during last summer's peak have gone silent again, thanks to the lower prices crude oil is bringing.
At the same time, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries has reduced its output by 13 percent since September, and is expected to cut production even more when it meets this weekend.
It's a see-saw formula, with consumers paying more when demand is greater than supply, and enjoying lower prices when supply overruns demand.
That demand, in turn, is down because we are entering what is being called the first worldwide recession since World War II.
So what are the lessons to be learned?
For one, we shouldn't be lulled into our old energy-wasting habits just because the price of gasoline is easier to stomach. Instead, we should limit our travel in good times and bad, putting away the surplus from good times to ease the pain of the bad.
For another, anything we can do to broaden our sources of energy -- solar, wind, nuclear, biofuels -- and get us off the OPEC teeter-totter is a step in the right direction.
Moving toward energy independence makes long-term sense even when that foreign energy is cheaper than the domestic sources.