Article brought to you by: Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Gas prices topping $5, and there's enough blame for all

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 19th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Gas prices are up across the nation with some motorists in California paying $5 per gallon. Producers have a litany of excuses on hand, and the fluctuation is a reminder that we should consider alternatives.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to AAA, users in Los Angeles are paying anywhere from $4.75 to $5.25 per gallon. The national average is around $3.75 per gallon. The spike in prices has been blamed on a number of factors.

The usual culprits are refinery closures, a spike in oil prices, and high demand. In California the problem is more acute because the state is the only one in the union that requires a unique blend for summer driving. Refineries in the state must close twice per year to switch back and forth from the standard formula and the summer blend.

Although prices eased over the winter, the spikes keep coming especially in California, which is a virtual gas island, separate from the gas economy of the rest of the nation. This was brutally illustrated last year when a refinery fire in the Bay-Area city of Richmond caused an unanticipated supply shortage.

Spikes like these provoke consumers to talk about solutions to the problem. With the exception of San Francisco, residents in many California cities are dependent on automobiles. When gas prices increase, it puts pressure on families who must make do with less. The poorer the family, the greater the hardship.

Such spikes inspire politicians to investigate gas prices, but no recent investigation has ever bore any fruit for consumers. Price shocks also encourage consumers to look for alternatives, such as using hybrid vehicles. Unfortunately, the premium on hybrids is so great that it wipes out any future gas savings for several years, thus making hybrid vehicles unattractive from a financial standpoint.

A more likely scenario will be the eventual expansion of the oil industry in California and across the nation. Fracking, although controversial, has the potential to make the United States energy independent within the next decade. Angry consumers may be tempted to turn away from any controversy if it will promise relief at the pump.

For now, those upset with high prices are urged to consider other transit options and to carpool. Also, stringing together errands to minimize travel is a useful way to save money, if sometimes impractical from a time management perspective.

Ultimately, it's all about choices, and despite the price tag, consumers still seem to choose gasoline as their preferred method of getting around, so relief shouldn't be expected to last, if it comes at all.

Article brought to you by: Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)