Why you should love $5 gas
Stop grousing about the numbers at the pump. All of this could be good for you and good for America.
Updated: May 25, 2011, 8:10 p.m. ET
This post is by Lynn Mucken of MSN Money.
As you pump 13 gallons into your Honda CR-V -- American's best-selling SUV with 28 mpg on the highway and 21 in town -- it's nearly impossible to view the $50 you're spending with a positive attitude.
With the national average for regular at $3.81, it's easy to label oil executives as pond scum, but try to remain open-minded. Think of the big picture: Though that promised road trip to Disney World has gone up in carbon monoxide, high gas prices may actually have an upside. Not for you and your family personally, maybe, but perhaps for the United States as a whole.
What if gas hit $5 a gallon? Here are some benefits (and we're serious about most of them):
Fewer people would die on the road. The less you drive, the more likely you will survive, if the events of 2008, the year of the most recent gas price surge, are correct. In 2007, 30,527 died in vehicle accidents in the U.S., according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In 2008, that number dropped 12%, to 26,791.
This mainly was attributed to a decrease in highway speeds. Also contributing was a 2% drop in miles driven, from 3.03 trillion to 2.97 trillion, despite a 1.7% increase in the number of registered vehicles. On the negative side, with many turning to more economical modes of transportation, motorcycle deaths rose 2.6% in 2008 and bicycle deaths 1%.
Demand for high-mileage cars could grow. The key word here is "could." Hybrid sales rose quickly in 2007 as gas prices climbed, then dropped noticeably in the second half of 2008 as gas prices plummeted from over $4 to $1.60. This time around, despite gas prices climbing steadily over the past year, hybrid cars shrunk from 2.9% of new vehicle sales in 2009 to 2.4% in 2010, according to Ward's Auto. Meanwhile, sales of trucks, SUVs, crossovers and minivans rose from 48% of the market to 51% from 2009 to 2010. In addition, the average fuel economy rating of new vehicles sold in 2010 was 22.2 mpg, down from 22.3 mpg in 2009.
That proves, of course, that Americans love their big vehicles. It could turn out to be different this time around. For one thing, there will be far more gas-efficient options available, plus all-electrics like the Chevrolet Volt and the soon-to-be-launched Ford Focus Electric. Post continues after video.
Shorter security lines. Airlines fares are extremely fuel-price reactive. Soon, hardly anyone will be able to afford to fly willy-nilly around the country or globe. You will breeze through the maze of airport checkpoints.
Less pollution. Less driving means cleaner air. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "pollution from vehicles causes two of our worst air pollution problems, smog and carbon monoxide." There are no solid figures on how many Americans die annually from car-produced pollution, but a 2008 study by Great Britain's University of Birmingham linked pneumonia deaths to pollution from motor vehicles.
Less congestion. Ever notice how well rush-hour freeway traffic flows on the minor holidays when most of the rest of us are working? A 2% drop in miles driven can make a big difference, allowing you to drive faster, although you now won't want to. According to the Department of Energy, on average every 5 mph you drive over 60 is like paying an extra 24 cents per gallon (based on a $3.79 price).
High prices lead to lower prices. Mackubin Thomas Owens, a professor of national-security affairs at the Naval War College and the editor of Orbis, the journal of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, theorizes that if gas prices rise enough, the government will open up areas now closed to oil production and oil companies will be able to invest in more-expensive methods of extracting oil. Soon we will be drowning in the stuff, and prices will drop again.
More exercise.The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates that by 2020, three out of four Americans will be categorized as overweight or obese. So, it can't hurt to walk the three blocks to the grocery or bike to school or work.
"When gas hits $4 a gallon, a lot of people come in looking for options," said Tim Blumenthal, the president of Bikes Belong Coalition. "Bike commuting jumped 44% between 2000 and 2010, with a big part of that in 2008. Still, more than half of all bike trips are three miles or less, so we're seeing racks and baskets (sold) for those who have multiple stops to make on the way home."
- MSN Autos:Find the cheapest gas near you
End of wars. According to National Defense Magazine, the cost of "in theater" gasoline to our troops in Afghanistan can range from $100 to $600. The Army estimated fuel can cost up to $400 a gallon if the only way to ship it is via helicopters. (Black Hawk helicopters get 0.74 mpg, while F15-E strike fighters get 0.41 mpg.) And that was last year's prices. Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya might get too expensive for America's taste.
Local businesses could profit. If you can't afford to drive out to Wal-Mart or Home Depot, you may be buying instead at the local supermarket or neighborhood hardware store. In addition, as the cost of transporting, say, grapes from Chile, goes out of sight, you may turn to regional farmers for your produce.
It's all about democracy. If we let up on the gas pedal, we'll starve those oil-rich despots out of existence. Oh, we import as much from Canada as from Saudi Arabia and Venezuela combined.
More on MSN Money:
Did I wake up in the Twlight Zone? I remember when we were in this situation 3 years ago no one was saying that high gas prices were good. In fact, we got daily tallies of the cost of fuel and how Bush's friends in Big Oil were making out big - even conspiracies that it was done on purpose to enrich his friends. We got sob story after sob story from potential Obama voters about how bad the economy (before the recession hit) about how this was hurting the average family. We heard how families were giving up purchasing snacks for kids, how vacations were nixed, and how after school activities were being dropped. Now that a Democrat is in charge - high gas is great for everyone! Its a celebration, it'll make us buy cars that get 40 miles on electricity? The most "wha?" moment in this article is that it will make more people shop locally?
As though locals live in a vacuum when it comes to getting their products on the shelves - the price of everything will go up like it did the last time that fuel prices skyrocketed. Meanwhile, our government is going to borrow money to loan to nations south of us so that they can use their oil? Is ending oil dependency really the goal if we are going to help others finance their oil extraction?
There IS an argument for everything in life, including $5 a gallon fuel.
However, you might well find yourself ALONE as you try to convince us.
People are not happy anymore and unhappy people make unhappy communities to say the least.
No, there is no media bias!!!
If the writer was trying to be cute, he/she failed miserably and instead only succeeded in insulting the readers.
The author forgets one small detail. Most people don't have the option to not drive, so trying to offer up suggestions as to why we might be happy to see $5 gas is crazy. It is nothing more than the result of not taking our own energy needs seriously and the continued devaluation of the dollar around the world. Speculation and flight to commodities is what is driving the price along with some increased global demand. I do have a hard time believing that somehow in the last 8 to 10 months some great imbalance has occurred in demand that would cause such a large move. Oil prices started going up when the President decided to put a moratorium on new drilling in the Gulf, along with showing no interest in solving the problem over the long hall. This is what we get when we have a President that looks to fundamentally change America. This is exactly what he wants to see because he shares the authors point of view that there are benefits to $5+ per gallon gas.
if $5 is good, then why not $10 or $100 or hell, let's just ban gas altogether and we'll all walk everywhere. No more traffic. Everyone will be skinny. No more security lines at the airport.
This author deserves a prize for most idiotic internet post of the year.
Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.
Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.
ABOUT SMART SPENDING
LATEST BLOG POSTS
State Farm says cost of deer-strike repairs up 14 percent, and drivers' odds of hitting one have increased as well.
VIDEO ON MSN MONEY
BLOGS WE LIKE
MUST-SEE ON MSN
- Video: Easy DIY smoked meats at home
A charcuterie master shares his process for cold-smoking meat at home.
- Jetpacks about to go mainstream
- Weird things covered by home insurance
- Bing: 70 percent of adults report 'digital eye strain'