I just wanted to wish all my loyal readers a happy Memorial Day weekend. I will be spending mine with my in-laws celebrating my son’s second birthday.
And, as we are traveling, let’s pay attention to how many people are on the roads. The news here in Cleveland has been focused on how consumers are going to continue there driving habits even if gas prices go higher (even up to $4 and beyond). It has even been suggested that our thirst for gas will not be quenched until the regular non-SUV driver pays over $100 to fill his tank. Thus, the news is still expecting a booming holiday travel weekend.
I bring this up because we all hate how high the gas prices are going. Yet, we seem to be doing little to nothing about it this time around, other than demand Congress to investigate the oil companies. Congress battling the oil companies has been attempted several times in the past with no impact on the gas companies or the price of gas. Some will blame Bush and Cheney. Yet, to prove price fixing, it takes a lot of evidence which is not available (if price fixing is even going on). And, complaining about this issue has done nothing to lead Congress and oil companies to find a solution to the problem like agree on EPA regulations changes to get a few additional refineries built ASAP to make up for the lack of supply on the market or require an increase in the fuel efficiency standards for new cars.
The first time gas spiked over $3 a gallon at the time of Katrina was right before Labor Day weekend in 2005. At that time, I noticed how barren the drive from Cleveland to Chicago and back seemed to be for a holiday weekend. It appeared that because the price of gas increased so rapidly, many people choose to stay close to home to conserve gas and their money. Thus, the price of gas came down soon thereafter even with all the refinery issues. However, this time, it seems that because the price increased on a slower pace where consumers feel that nothing can be done (I have seen several drivers interviewed on the news saying what can they do, nothing but pay the prices). Thus, because demand is not changing, the price continues to increase. This is similar to a frog’s reaction to a boiling pot of water. If the frog is put into a pot of hot water, the frog will take immediate action to get out. If the frog is put into a pot of cool water which is then heated, the frog will stay in no matter how hot the water becomes (or high gas prices go).
Note, consumers have the most power to influence the price of gas. It is all in our choice on how much traveling we want to do and in what kind of cars we drive. We have tended to want bigger cars for the power and safety features that the car has. We made a push in early 2006 for smaller hybrid cars after the spike of gas prices from Katrina. Yet, as price of gas decreased from consumers rethinking their choices (and no hurricanes hitting the Gulf Coast last fall), we have became complacent and have gone back to our motto bigger is better. Well, it has caught up to us again. Until we choose to affect the long-term demand for gas we will continue to fight the high price of gas. So, as you travel this weekend, just notice how many people are on the roads. There is nothing wrong with wanting to travel; we just need to be aware how each of our choices is affecting the price of gas.
There are several things that we can each do to have an impact, including making sure our tires are properly inflated, driving the speed limit and buying more efficient cars. I find it interesting that people buy SUVs for their safety yet speed putting themselves and their precious passengers at higher risk of an accident.
Footnote – just as I am publishing this, ABC News came out with a survey that 3 out of 10 families are planning on not taking a summer driving vacation due to the price of gas. I do not know if these 3 families who changed their plans were the families who usually stay close to home anyways and thus were not really serious about a vacation anyways. Or, if these families were planning a trip like they have taken in the past and cancelled their plans, indicating a deviation from past practices. We will see how consumers respond. For my wife and I, we have not changed our driving habits as of yet. However, when we bought my wife’s car in Fall 2005, we choose a Subaru station wagon over a SUV due to the gas mileage.