What does life look like with $8/gallon gas?

Drudge is reporting that the US is headed to $5/gallon for gas. When I mention US prices to my Irish friends, they usually are either shocked or laugh. Our gas prices are still bargain basement compared to Ireland. Currently gas is about EUR1.55 per liter. Multiply by 4 to approximate a gallon = EUR 6.20. Multiply again by $1.30, and voila = $8/gallon gas.

When petrol is this pricey, it’s time to ditch the car. Yes, we lead the green life, although very unwillingly. Husband commutes nearly 2hrs to work each way – a ride that takes only 35 min by car. The kids and I walk to school daily, 23 minutes each way.

A few observations: 1. The idea that one somehow gets more fit from all of this walking is a joke and I am a living, breathing, zaftig testament to this truth; 2. Walking and taking public transit drains an enormous amount of time from one’s day, and one’s productivity; 3. Because I can only carry so much in my shopping trolley, I have to act as a hunter-gatherer, getting only so much food per day. Again – big drain on productivity. 4. Because we can’t afford a car, we’re not supporting all of the many businesses that build up around car ownership – insurance, gas, car washes, oil change services, tires, etc. So they lose out as well.

Here’s your future, America. May I recommend getting some good shoes?

20 thoughts on “What does life look like with $8/gallon gas?”

  1. If war breaks out in the Mid East and the Strait of Hormuz mined, gas prices will go through the roof. People here will be reminded of the foolish reliance we have placed on getting so much of our oil from there.

    All could have been avoidable if the Congress had had a rational policy to develop our own resources.

    As for me I have an old Toyota MR2 – a 2 engined 2300 lb 1.6 liter I4 sports car that gets 30MPG and an equally old Mercedes – 3300 lb car 3 liter I6 that gets 20. I will simply drive Mr. 2 more.

    He is like a big go kart.

  2. Innisfree,

    You still have the mindset of the privileged bourgeosie. Stop killing the earth from your estate of suburban privilege.

    Instead, move to Good Living Block #8 (#6 is nice too) to an allocated 100 M2, just a short walk to Provisions #33 and WorkCenter #2. Free up some resouces for the other peasants, and stop taking more than your share.

    (My poor attempt at expressing the thoughts of my benificent Democrat political masters.)

  3. OK I agree with you about walking….when I walked a lot because I commutted by train, it seemed to do little for my ‘fitness’. I’m not sure why, perhaps because when I walked it was easy to pass a McDonald’s, a pub, and other places and treat myself to a snack that I thought I ‘earned’ from all that walking.

    You do not say how your husband gets to work, but you say he takes 2 hours whereas if he used a car it would only take 35 minutes.

    OK here is where my inner economist comes in. The husband takes an extra 1.5 hours to get to work. Why? Because US gas prices are say $4 per gallon (I’m rounding up, right now they are like $3.45 where I am). How much gas does his car burn in 0.5 hours? One gallon? So he saves $4 by not using the car to go to work, but he looses 1.5 hours of time! What is his time worth? $2.67 an hour? That makes me wonder if the not taking the car to work is a ruse to get time away from the wife!!!! Using ‘high gas prices’ as a clever excuse!

    What does she think gas prices should be? Say $1.50 a gallon? OK then what’s causing him to burn 1.5 hours instead of 1.0 gallons of gas is a differential of $2.50. That makes sense if you value your time at $1.67 an hour! At this point the problem I think is not that he is paying too much for gas but that his boss is paying too much for him! Any wage above $2.00 an hour speaks to excessively high labor power on his part!

    Even at $8 per gallon, things don’t get much better. Again assuming the car will burn a full gallon in 30 minutes (again that’s kind of generous…one would think you could do a bit better in terms of mileage these days), not taking the car to work to burn an extra 1.5 hours means you value time at $5.33 an hour. Unless your working a sub-min wage job, you probably value time much more than that!

    This leads to a different conclusion. There’s something psychological about gas prices that causes us to attribute more importance to them than they really hold over our wallets. Perhaps because the prices, in big block type at gas stations, gets us in the mindset of a game trying to score the lowest penny price possible (I’ve caught myself going 20 minutes out of my way, even making side trips to the ATM in order to save $0.05 a gallong by paying cash at the cheapest gas station….on a ten gallon tank that amounts to a whopping $0.50 cents. In a store I’d easily blow that on overpriced candy or coffee without even thinking of it).

  4. The kids and I walk to school daily, 23 minutes each way.

    I did that throughout my schooling, though in those days you did it on your own without your mother. What a feeble complaint. If you want to save time, get on bikes. Jeeze, bikes are cheap nowadays.

  5. Some more observations from Dublin. Even with high gasoline prices, there are plenty of cars on the streets, just very small cars. Unlike US cities, there are no “Interstate” type highways cutting through Dublin, just roads built for a time of fewer cars. And one lane on major thoroughfares is reserved for buses and taxis adding to the congestion. Even in the residential parts of Dublin, I do not remember seeing garages attached or free standing. Cars are parked on the street or often on a paved over piece of front lawn. Sometimes you even see two cars parked in front. We are a species that excels in adapting.

  6. The US has the largest energy reserves – oil, Natural Gas, Coal, shale oil and NG – in the world. We aren’t allowed to get them because of the Luddite hypocrisy of the Ruling Party.

    And because they don’t pay a price.

  7. “Don’t forget to avoid those jackrabbit starts!”

    Of course since internal combustion engines are normally most efficient at or near full throttle……

    Petrol here is about US$1.50/litre. What I pay to drive to work and back is easily worth it compared to the misery and time-waste of public transport. I can do without a few dollars much more easily than I can do without a couple of hours a day…

  8. What I’m seeing here is comments that seem to say the number of people walking in Dublin isn’t based so much on fuel prices but on the fact that roads are not very good for driving on…..which makes me suspect the reverse is true, streets are probably excellent for walking on…hence lots of people opt to walk whenever its feasible. And note that it’s not like Dublin was some car driving traffic megacity when gas prices were very low. People today don’t drive in Dublin mostly because people in Dublin have never driven, the city wasn’t built for drivers and never adapted itself, much, to car driving. The story you’re trying to build here, higher gas prices causing a mass shift to walking, biking and other alternatives, has never really been seen. Consider, say, Los Angeles, a city that has always been centered on car drivers. While I’m sure walking, biking, and car alternative use went up during spikes in gas prices, the city has never really shifted away from being a car centered city.

    In terms of fuel prices, there’s no story here. It almost never makes sense to walk based on the price of gas. Even if gas went up to $10 a gallon, walking or biking would have a tough time competiting with driving to work. If your commute is very far, then walking becomes unworkable. If you’re commute is very near, then a high gas price doesn’t matter as much since you’re not going to burn much gas getting there.

  9. Long commuters are often multistage, and walking often mixes with public transport and with driving. For a 15-mile commute, the choices might be:

    1)Drive the whole way

    2)Walk 1 mile to commuter rail stop. Take train. Transfer to bus. Walk 1/2 mile to destination.

  10. @Nicholas – The “jack rabbit starts” comment is always pulled out by the politicos when gas starts spiking -that and “have a clean air filter”, “keep your car tuned up”, etc.

    Our public transport is especially horrid – they don’t publish schedules at the bus stops.

    So unless you regularly take that bus line while waiting there you don’t know if a bus will come in 10 minutes, 2 hours, or never.

    A few weeks ago I was getting my old MB serviced and rather than bug the shop owner by waiting there for 3 hours decided to walk to the theater to see The Help (great movie, BTW).

    Well, with nothing else do do and only a vague idea of the distance I started walking.

    It was a 7 mile walk.

    After the movie I thought I would take the bus.

    After waiting 20-30 minutes decided to start walking and pick one up while walking back.

    One never came – so I had a 14 mile walk to see a great movie ;-)

  11. Boonton,

    Dublin City Centre, where I live and work, is very walkable. The downside is that crime, noise and grocery prices are high, them’s the breaks. If I had to raise and feed a family, I would probably move to one of the nicer suburbs, and these have a much more car-centric design. That doesn’t mean you absolutely need a car, but not having one quickly becomes a big inconvenience.

    Biking? Only if you’re suicidal or very good at dodging the Dublin Bus biker death squads.

  12. Higher prices for oil-derived fuels don’t only affect *individual* transportation. Freight costs are an important part of the overall cost picture for many products; you can expect sustained high fuel prices to have a considerable impact on the cost of food, for one thing.

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