Yikes. $2.19 per gallon of regular and rising.
How high can it go: $2.50? $3.00? $5.00? Unfortunately, there is no ceiling in sight. We should be outraged, yet whom do we blame?
Mine is one of the best perspectives in northern Michigan to observe this looming energy crisis. On most days, in full view of an office window, I see gasoline station employees nervously climbing up to a high billboard in order to change prices. It is not a teetering ladder they fear, but the wrath of passing motorists threatening and cussing out vulnerable attendants 20 feet off the ground, stretching to place still larger numbers after the number two and decimal point.
%$#&* I feel like punching out one of those gas station guys myself. The price has risen by 10 cents since I started writing this column. Since the reasons for bouncing gas prices remain shrouded in mystery, it is no wonder the person who physically increases the prices might take the heat.
We are now at unprecedented high levels for gasoline. Many experts say it is not evil gas station workers, but the surging economy in China that has fueled the demand for oil and, in turn, higher prices. Auto sales in China are skyrocketing as their billion-plus population becomes more affluent.
Before we jump all over China, consider that Wall Street editor Allan Sloan says a larger factor in the short-term price increases is investor anxiety about the Middle East. With U.S. generals predicting increasing violence in Iraq as we hand over governing control to undetermined Iraqis on June 30th and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict spinning into total anarchy, don‘t expect the prices to come down any time soon.
Okay, then maybe we should blame the Bush administration policies. According to presidential candidate John Kerry and Senator Debbie Stabenow from Michigan, President Bush should tap into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) in order to ease the demand and reduce prices. The SPR is a 660-billion-barrel stash of oil set aside in our country for emergency use. Whenever gasoline prices increase, political pressure intensifies to tap into the reserves to provide price relief for consumers.
Our president is correct when he maintains that the SPR should not be used to manipulate prices - ever. In light of potential major terrorist attacks, the fall of Saudi Arabia‘s royal family, or any number of other possible crisis scenarios, we undoubtedly will need that oil reserve to save our bacon (and economy) some day.
So if Bush is not to blame, rising prices must be OPEC‘s fault. Recently, Kerry and Stabenow are also on record stating that the president should directly confront the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to increase oil production - another bad idea. Would we want France and Germany bullying us to produce more autos or computers for export to benefit their economies? Also, I thought we were striving for the United States to become less dependent on foreign oil, not more so.
Someone must be blamed, right? Well, how about you... and me? If you calm down and think it through, it might dawn on you that we are all probably at fault for higher energy costs.
Democrats such as Kerry and Stabenow have no serious solutions but are playing politics with gas prices, pure and simple. American car companies glamorize gas-guzzlers in their marketing campaigns. The Bush administration does not even have an energy policy - only an insistence to drill for oil in environmentally sensitive areas in the U.S. and cozy up to ruthless regimes in the oil-rich Middle East. I drive an SUV and pickup truck. No one talks of energy conservation anymore. And on and on.
It boils down to this: the time has come to stop blaming gas station attendants and others for high prices and point the finger of blame at that guilty person staring at you in the mirror.