Prices partly the fault of consumers

The last week has certainly been an eye opener, as gas prices have risen sharply in response to the damage Hurricane Katrina caused to nine refineries in the Gulf of Mexico.

There have been reports that between 38-52 oil platforms have been damaged and that another 30 have been destroyed.

Meanwhile, President Bush has authorized 30 million gallons of oil to be released from the Strategic Petroleum Reserves.

Economic experts point out that these 30 million gallons are being loaned to oil companies, which will actually create a shortage in the long run, as suppliers must repay the original 30 million gallons plus interest.

And consumers have created the very shortage they feared by going and filling every container they had instead of rationing.

Even before this disaster, there has been a disturbing pattern of investor speculation and price hikes blamed on seasonal consumption.

Every year, oil companies point to heating oil use in the winter and traveling Americans in the summer as reasons for price increases.

Investors see hurricanes forming or hear of terrorist plans to attack oil pipelines and refineries, then raise prices out of the fear that these events might take place and create scarcity.

Consumers trying to make sense of policy decisions or market conditions face a daunting amount of contradicting expert analysis that soon becomes so lost in economic theory and jargon that it is hard to sort the truth from the spin.

Whatever we do, the U.S. faces some tough challenges in its pursuit of affordable energy. It is clear that Americans will continue to consume oil heavily and treat it as a necessity.

Unlike European countries that rely far less on independent transportation, America is logistically structured and mentally conditioned to travel frequently and in small groups.

I know I don’t carpool, and I don’t think twice about the many small trips around town I make every week that could probably be consolidated.

I have always driven a truck, but over the summer I purchased a Chevy Malibu because of its better gas mileage.

At the time, it was a major concession for me and I vowed that as soon as I got out of college I would own a truck again. Now I wonder if that is a realistic option.

If we are not willing to change our habits, then we must change our vehicles.

We must stop giving lip service to alternative fuels and make serious strides to develop alternative energy sources.

Even if gas prices drop back to their pre-hurricane levels, we need to be looking to the future and making the necessary adjustments today.

If it were an easy or enjoyable transition, we would have done it years ago.

Mackenzie Turberville is a senior magazine journalism student from Lake City. He is Opinions Editor for the Famuan. Contact him at