On mainstream news this morning I heard our Utah Governor declare US gas prices "outrageous". Memorial Day national news coverage labeled them "sky high." Wrong! Gas prices only seem outrageous to we Americans who George W. Bush correctly noted are "addicted to oil".
Europeans, by contrast, have lived with high gas prices for years, using proceeds to fund social programs, re-build infrastructure, etc. In addition, as noted in a May 21 Senate-side Congressional hearing Exploring the Skyrocketing Price of Oil (3 hrs), Europeans used gas tax differentials to correctly steer transportation systems toward diesel and away from gasoline, which proves ever-more important now that clean diesel is available. And to steer transportation system toward mass transit and away from single-vehicle transportation. Meanwhile we Americans sat around watching TV and partying until world market forces pushed prices upward, allowing most of the recent 'surplus' to be captured as record profits, record CEO compensation, etc. by what I'll call the Petrochemical Industrial Complex. Finally, Europeans are now beginning to look toward a future free of dependence on petrochemicals and their commingled carbon-loading propensities.
Even though we Americans are just now beginning to face the reality of high gas prices, the prices themselves are not the problem. In fact "sky high" prices are finally getting us to pay attention, however feebly, to alternative sources of energy that are compatible with global climate systems and human survival. As noted in the Congressional hearing, planet Earth is not in jeopardy, rather it is we humans (along with myriad other species) who are at risk. The Earth has worked its way through five Great Extinctions in the past and arguable done remarkably well. But it is in no way clear that we humans will survive the Sixth Great Extinction. Tragically, we humans may be contributing to our collective demise by clamoring for lower gas prices.
This is not to say that all is well in petrochemical industrial complex, medical industrial complex, financial industrial complex, military industrial complex America. But that is a story for another post (or several hundred posts). In the meantime 3 hours are well-spent viewing the hearing. If you want a sneak peak, go to 2:15 in the videocast and watch Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) in action, followed by others as the hearing winds up.
Note: cross posted at Ecological Economics