There's no doubt we are all trying to deal with rising gas prices in various ways. I woke up this morning and read a series of opinion pieces in the New York Times dealing with the consequences of the rising prices, and it got me thinking, because there are indeed a lot of outcomes, many of them different for different people. So I thought what I'd do is start a list of the effects I can think of (starting with ones that affect me as an individual), and would love it if anyone who stops by would add something to the list, especially some way that you have been personally affected. I also thought it would be interesting to do a downside/upside commentary, as well, to start thinking about what good could possibly come of it all....
DOWNSIDE: Obviously, rising gas prices means that we are cutting back on travel. Living out in the country, I have to travel 12 miles to get to any decent sized store (and unfortunately, my choices then are Walmart and Menard's). If I want something fancier, like say, a Borders or a Bed, Bath, & Beyond, we'd be looking at 40 miles each way. And if I want to visit family (living in Chicago), we're talking 140 miles each way. So obviously, we don't make any of those trips as much as we used to.
UPSIDE: Neighbors have started calling when they are going to the grocery store or into town, asking if either a) we need anything, or b) we'd like to come along to save on gas. We are becoming a very fuel-efficient little community! People everywhere are increasing their use of public transportation systems, bikes, scooters, and their legs (walking!)- all much greener options. The popularity of gas-efficient models (which have been available for awhile, but not necessary until now) is rising. Our 2003 Matrix gets 37 mph on the highway- that means that 5 years ago, there were cars that had excellent gas mileage, but they just weren't super popular. As we demand higher fuel efficiency, the auto industry will be forced to make more and more of their vehicles meet these higher standards (which, of course, they are fully capable of doing, but are under major pressure from the oil industry NOT to do).
DOWNSIDE: It seems like everything is connected to the price of oil. Food is getting more expensive, because the costs associated with raising it and transporting it are very oil-dependent. Energy costs are rising in general (propane just went up almost 80 cents a gallon from this time last year- and we use about 500 gallons per year).
UPSIDE: We are all searching for cheaper, more sustainable options. Shopping at farmer's markets eliminates the middle men, making fresh, wholesome veggies more affordable. People are thinking things like, "Why not buy surplus veggies now while they are fresh and cheap and in season, freeze them, and then eat them in winter so I don't have to pay to have my food shipped halfway around the world?" We are seriously considering each purchase we make. Items that are cheaper and not long-lasting. That means we buy less "junk" and more high-quality, sustainable items. Instead of a couple of cheaply made shirts, I might buy one durable hemp shirt that will have a longer life.
DOWNSIDE: Businesses are having to cut back on "extraneous" expenditures, like marketing, decorating, security systems, etc. That means that other businesses in those industries are suffering, because their services are being cut from budgets.
UPSIDE: Not sure here... is there one?
DOWNSIDE: The cost of fertilizer for farmers is rising, making it even more difficult for them to survive.
UPSIDE: Farmers are starting to consider organic fertilizers, like those made from fish and kelp, that are not so dependent on the price of oil. It no longer makes sense to use soil-depleting chemicals when healthy and effective alternatives are finally cheaper.
DOWNSIDE: Large farms use gas and diesel to power their heavy machinery, which they simply cannot operate without. This is a huge burden for farmers, and is slowly resulting in rising food prices all around. And not just produce. Meat and dairy, as well, are becoming more expensive to produce.
UPSIDE: Smaller, organic farms tend to be less oil-dependent. The price of organic meat, dairy, and produce use to be much higher than conventional, but the price gap is disappearing. This means that more people are starting to consider buying organic and local.
DOWNSIDE: Many conventional household products include synthetic ingredients that are derived from petroleum. This means that items like cleaners, plastics, synthetic fabrics, and other common items are becoming more expensive.
UPSIDE: Natural, sustainable, and organic cleaners, clothing, upholstery and household items are no longer appearing as expensive, and many people are considering these options.
I'm going to stop my list here, but I imagine that you might be able to add some ideas to my list. Please do!! And if possible, keep it positive by providing an alternative that can help us beat these rising costs of living. Let's help each other out!
Cartoon courtesy of Harry Campbell, New York Times