When the religious leaders saw the outrageous things he was doing, and heard all the children running and shouting through the Temple, “Hosanna to David’s Son!” they were up in arms and took him to task. “Do you hear what these children are saying?” Jesus said, “Yes, I hear them. And haven’t you read in God’s Word, ‘From the mouths of children and babies I’ll furnish a place of praise’?”
“Gas prices are outrageous!” Lately, you hear this from every side: Coworkers who commute long distances bemoan their $700-per-month gasoline payments; churchgoers sigh miserably at the cost of filling up a 20-gallon minivan tank; ladies in the bathrooms exclaim indignantly being cut off at the pump for the first (but not last) time ever; heck, you could stop random people on the street and have a complete conversation with them about gas prices.
We seem, as a nation, to have reached a consensus on the price of gas—rather amazing, given that consensus exists on almost no other topic. But we all agree that we’re paying too much for gas, period. Corollary to this agreement is the belief that those evil foreign oil companies are scooping in obscene profits at our expense. This syllogism ends straightforwardly: Reduce the price of gas, and (a) we won’t pay too much; and (b) oil companies won’t make so much. Perfect.
The problem is that the base assumption—that gas prices are too high—may not actually be true.
It is true that we’re paying more now for a gallon of gas (and, as a result, for a gallon of milk, pound of meat, or shipment of a package) than ever before. But we’re just basing this claim on our historical experiences, assuming that gas prices should be low like they were 10 years ago, 5 years ago, or even last year. Now prices have started climbing towards what our European counterparts have paid for years, the howls of pain and indignation really start up. Just because “it’s always been this way” doesn’t mean that’s the right way—think of slavery in the South, untreatable bacterial infections before antibiotics, the rich/poor gap—any number of social ills. They’ve always been that way. Do we really want to keep things as they “always were”?
Are higher gas prices really a bad thing, though? Clearly oil reserves can’t last forever, although equally clearly some people would like to stretch our oil use to the very limit of those reserves. Stretching will only get us so far, though; this crunch may be the perfect opportunity to spark creative oil alternatives rather than hoping for prices to drop again some day.
Creative alternatives. I’ve already seen lifestyle changes in coworkers. Couples who used to drive to the same workplace separately have started carpooling, at least occasionally. One gal who drove a vast Dodge Ram pickup switched to a Toyota Yaris. And now people don’t think I’m so crazy for riding my bike to work after all—Al and Marge, for example, instinctively commented, “That must save a lot on gas,” rather than “You’re clearly insane.” Coworkers have even started moving to live closer to work, reducing 60-mile commutes to 35-mile commutes.
These types of changes will only happen when people feel they have no alternative. Radically changing your behavior because it’s good for the environment is one thing; saving yourself hundreds of dollars a month is a whole different ball game. The power of $4.00-a-gallon gas is that people have a very real incentive to make changes that, honestly, we’re going to have to make at some point anyway. When is it time to lock the barn door? Before the horse gets out.
So yes, the gas prices hurt. I feel the pain, too. But instead of saying they’re too high, let’s think of this as our chance to put a lock on the door now, before it’s too late.
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