Oil hits a high; some in U.S. see $4 gas by spring

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Gasoline prices, which for months lagged the big run-up in the price of oil, are suddenly rising quickly, with some experts fearing they could hit $4 a gallon by spring. Diesel is hitting new records daily and oil closed at an all-time high on Tuesday of $100.88 a barrel.

The increases could not come at a worse time for the economy. With growth slowing, high energy prices that were once easily absorbed by consumers are now more likely to act as a drag on household budgets, leaving people with less money to spend elsewhere. These costs could exacerbate the nation's economic woes, piling a fresh energy shock on top of the turmoil in credit and housing.

"The effect of high oil prices today could be the difference between having a recession and not having a recession," said Kenneth Rogoff, a Harvard University economist.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEnergy, Natural Resources

Posted February 27, 2008 at 6:31 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Hursley wrote:

Only when it reaches $5 a gallon will we see a truly significant number of people begin to make serious changes in their choices for transportation and energy use. In our economy, it is pain alone which drives change on this issue.

February 27, 1:03 pm | [comment link]
2. libraryjim wrote:

I know very few people who drive for pleasure anymore.  We have even cut back on the frequency with which we cut our grass (have to be careful of the Homeowners association rules, however).

Face it, for most of us, driving is a necessity.  Public transportation just doesn’t exist in many areas.  Jobs are scarce and one has to take employment where one can find it, even if it means a longer drive (for me that’s 30 miles one way). New cars with higher MPG ratings are unaffordable to most people in this economy, and even then, my van is supposed to get 26, but it gets 23.  Tax rebates on hybrids? Big joke.  Can’t afford the initial outlay to get the rebate—cut the price payed at the dealer instead, I say.

So, no, pain is not the motivator.  Living is.

February 27, 1:14 pm | [comment link]
3. Mike L wrote:

I’ve already seen $4+ for diesel around these parts, which is totally ridiculous.

February 27, 1:53 pm | [comment link]
4. physician without health wrote:

Gasoline does not have to hit $5 to have an effect; I see many patients who drive long distances to come to clinic, and had alot of no shows Monday after a 15 cent minimum increase in gas prices here in Alabama.  Some of the increase will be tempered by cutbacks in consumption, but the overall picture does not look good.  We have got to get aggressive about looking for other sources of energy.

February 27, 2:19 pm | [comment link]
5. Kevin Maney+ wrote:

This represents some of the worst in human behavior: greed, fear, avarice.

February 27, 3:54 pm | [comment link]
6. JustOneVoice wrote:

Every day only so much oil is produced world wide.  Who should decide who gets it?  Most of the oil today goes to whoever is willing to pay the most for it.  If you do not like the price of oil (and therefore gas) there are only two ways to change it.  Produce more or use less.  Since a large portion of our oil comes from overseas, the US government can’t lower the price of oil/gas without paying somehow.  If you want to tax the US oil companies more to use the money to subsidies oil prices, where will the US oil companies get the money to find more oil for tomorrow.  Do you want all our oil to be supplied by foreign companies?  The good news is that as oil becomes more expensive, alternatives such as solar, become more cost effective.

February 27, 6:07 pm | [comment link]
7. libraryjim wrote:

You forgot to speak about the produce more option.  We have a huge oil supply in the ANWR region in Alaska right now, that is estimated by some to be nearly as large as Saudi’s oil field.  Plus there is the Gulf of Mexico.  If we don’t drill it, Cuba has said they will, and we will lose rights to it.  There was a report the other day that said Canada is sitting on a huge oil field, larger than Saudi Arabia, perhaps. 

But none of that will do any good without refineries to produce gas from oil.  Right now one of the problems is that one of the refineries is down (due to—what was it? An explosion?), and most of the others are at capacity.  Oil companies say that with red-tape alone, it will take TEN YEARS to get another refinery on line.  George W, in another one of his forgotten promises, pledged to look at leasing closed military bases as sites for new refineries, but so far, nothing has been done on it.

$4.00 a gallon? We have only ourselves and our inaction to blame.

February 27, 6:32 pm | [comment link]
8. JustOneVoice wrote:

I agree that “We have only ourselves and our inaction to blame.”  I also agree that we need to stake our claim and start producing more oil from the Gulf, instead of leaving it to Cuba (or Mexico).  However I have mixed feelings about ANWR.  It would be nice to have that oil soon, but it is an appreciating asset.  The longer we wait to tap it, the more it will be worth.  Kind of like a savings account, only, unlike the dollar, it has real value. It’s a hard decision to decide when to make a withdrawal.  But when oil gets high enough people will demand we drill there.

February 27, 6:44 pm | [comment link]
9. Andrew717 wrote:

I’m with you, #8.  We should start in the Gulf, if only to strengthen our claims, but I’d hold off increasing domestic production.  A day may well come when it’ll be really nice to have a stash of petroleum up there.  In the meantime, keep looking into electric vehicles & start building nuclear plants to provide the juice.

February 27, 6:48 pm | [comment link]
10. libraryjim wrote:

Even the New York Times mentioned that Tallahassee had one of the nations highest utility bills!  It was a shock (oooh, pardon the pun), to come to the capital of Florida, and have our electric, etc. bill almost triple from Bay County with the same KW of usage.  Alternate means would be desirable, indeed.

February 27, 7:07 pm | [comment link]
11. The_Archer_of_the_Forest wrote:

I think I be ridin’ me bike to work more this summer.

February 27, 7:07 pm | [comment link]
12. aldenjr wrote:

#2 Since we have been driving hybrids beginning November, 2000, (we have driven three) we have saved 13,800 gallons of gasoline.  That’s almost two full tanker trucks of gasoline.  We have also spent very little on maintenance and enjoyed the superior performance of the Toyota Hybrid Automobiles.  At today’s gasoline price of $3.25 per gallon that is worth almost $45,000.  In other words, we have paid for two of the three automobiles in gasoline savings alone and the third one is brand new, with the other two still going strong.  What a lot of people do not realize is that the gas savings coupled with Toyota’s incredible low maintenance costs make these cars very affordable (at least the ones we own).  I am so convinced of the superior performance of the electric gasoline Toyota Hybrids, that as soon as I can get a plug-in Hybrid, I’m moving up to that for my next car.  With plug-in technology, the electric equivalent of a gallon of gas is about 40 cents.

February 27, 9:08 pm | [comment link]
13. libraryjim wrote:

If one doesn’t have the money for the initial purchase, the long run savings don’t matter.

Note to car companies: Lower the sticker price if you want us to buy the latest fad car.

February 27, 10:35 pm | [comment link]
14. libraryjim wrote:

PS, Toyota stinks. I’ll never buy another Toyota again.  I had nothing but trouble from the car and from the mechanics at the dealer.

In fact, I’ll never buy another foreign car again, either.
My last Dodge Caravan lasted 10 years.  I expect this one to do so, as well.  My Toyota lasted less then 5 years, and my wife is ready to shoot her Suzuki.
I’m glad GM and others are coming out with their own version of hybrids, maybe when I’m ready to give up my Dodge in eight years, they will be affordable (we wait until we have at least 3/4 of the purchase price for a downpayment before we buy.)

February 27, 10:39 pm | [comment link]
15. libraryjim wrote:

Of course, if someone wanted to buy me a GMC hybrid, I’d seriously allow them to do so.

February 27, 10:43 pm | [comment link]
16. aldenjr wrote:

Jim, we did not have the cash either to purchase the cars.  At the time we bought the cars both my wife and I worked for non-profit organizations.  Every single hybrid we bought was financed by the bank at a very low interest rate with as little as $500 down.  We also received tax credits on all three.  When you add it up, the savings in gas accounted for more than one car payment, and our savings in car maintenance with the new cars paid from most of the second car payment as compared to the older GM cars we had been driving before.
In fact, we will never drive another GM car.  When I walked into our GM dealership in Leesburg, Virginia in 1999, where I had been a regular customer for six years, I asked when they would be introducing a hybrid vehicle.  I was told that GM would never do it, that customers would not want to purchase them.  I told them then that I was one customer that would and walked out vowing never to return. 
I am serious about this.  We have a nationwide energy crisis and we need much better leadership from our American energy and automotive companies than we have been getting.  For that matter, we need it from the White House and the Congress as well.  It is a shame that Japan and Germany lead the world in energy and automotive ingenuity, especially when those technologies were first developed in this country. 
The success of the Hybrid electric vehicle in this country is because enough consumers said “nuts” to GM and went to Toyota to purchase hybrids.  I would desert our electric utilities too, except we still do not have choice.

February 28, 12:45 am | [comment link]
17. Shumanbean wrote:

I think Toyotas are actually pretty dependable…or at least that’s been my experience with old ones. The real problem for me is that it’s hard to find a cost-effective source of quality after-market parts for them. I can’t begin to imagine what a pain it would be to work on a hybrid.

February 28, 12:52 am | [comment link]
18. Andrew717 wrote:

Jim, you may want to take a look at diesels.  Several companies are planing to bring out new diesel models in the next year or so, and I’ve heard naught but good about the VW diesels they sold up until 2006 (pulled due to air pollution standards).  They’re supposed to recoup their extra initial purchase price over gas models quicker than hybrids, and hold their value amazingly well, which helps with leasing. 

What I’m most excited about are cars along the lines of the Chevy Volt concept, where the gas motor never turns the wheels directly, but rather acts as an onboard generator for the electric drive system when the batteries run down.  Lugging along two parallel drive trains has always seemed inefficient to me, and this would allow the generator (gas, diesel, or later on something more exotic like gas turbines or fuel cells) to operate at their most efficient speed, regardless of how fast the car needed to go at the time.  In 10 or 15 years, that’s how most cars will operate.

February 28, 1:20 am | [comment link]
19. libraryjim wrote:

Alden, we do not buy ANYTHING on credit.  If we don’t have the cash, we don’t buy until we do.  That leaves out a new car for a few more years anyway, until we have at least 3/4 of the purchase price in our special car account.

February 28, 1:41 pm | [comment link]
20. aldenjr wrote:

Jim -  Did you not buy a house on credit?  I have to because I have to have somewhere to live and simply do not have the cash.  Same thing for the cars.  A car is no longer a luxury if you want to be gainfully employed.  Since I don’t have the cash the only way to get a car is on credit.  What I do is figure out when it makes sense to purchase and finance a car or house based on the ability to minimize monthly out-lays of cash for energy recover the financing cost and, when financed at low interest rates I end up leveraging the bank’s money to build up my equity.

February 29, 7:58 pm | [comment link]
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