After reading about all the doom and gloom about $4, $5, or $6 gas prices, I’ve begun to see some positives, and not just changes in people’s behavior, or in learning how to hedge against high gas prices. Here’s what I see as the potential positives from high gas prices:
1. High gas prices are causing America to rethink it’s dependency on foreign oil. More than one person believes that our economic engine’s dependency on foreign oil is a potential threat to our national security since we import nearly 60 percent of the oil we depend on. Back in 1985, that number was 20 percent.
Regardless of what you think the solution is, whether drilling for more oil, scaling back our demand, or using every tip in the book to save gas, we have needed to reduce our dependence on foreign oil for several decades. These high gas prices are putting our dependence front and center on our minds.
2. High gas prices are causing people to drive slower to conserve fuel. What’s the positive here? Fewer highway deaths. According to an article in USA Today, there have been fewer highway deaths every month since October of 2007…just when the current run up in gas prices began in earnest.
3. High gas prices cause families to plan their summer vacations closer to home. As a result, families can discover the great attractions offered nearby. They will spend less time in transit and more time enjoying each other’s company as well as more time enjoying the attraction and their vacation.
4. High gas prices are causing some Americans to rethink (or at least reduce) their attraction to “stuff.” We’re a consumer society without a doubt, but these high gas prices have caused boaters to downsize, RV’ers to downsize, giant SUV drivers to downsize. We’re finding that our needs can be met quite nicely with something smaller, more fuel efficient, and practical. Or maybe we can be satisfied with what we already have.
5. High gas prices are causing more people to ride bicycles or walk to work. What would happen to our society as a whole if a significant portion of the population had to exercise just to get to work? We would potentially see our health care costs go down and our life expectancies go up!
6. High gas prices are increasing interest in mass transit and van pools. What is the direct result? More interaction between people, fewer headaches trying to find a parking space, less fuel consumed, more ideas exchanged (in the van), and more revenue for cities that utilize mass transit systems.
Some business executives are even opting to take the bus for business trips. It’s slower than flying for sure in some cases, but considering that you don’t have to arrive 90 minutes early, your trips are very rarely canceled for no apparent reason, you aren’t at the mercy of a freak weather system, and the seats are actually comfortable and spacious, it might be an option that more business people should consider.
7. High gas prices are causing people to re-think where they spend their money. According to another USA Today article, fewer people are gambling in casinos because of the money they have to spend on the gas to get there. Sure, the money may be spent anyway on something else, but gambling is probably a far worse way to spend it. At least when you spend money on gas, you’re going somewhere. Gambling is a fast road to nowhere and the MPG’s are horrible.
8. As gas prices creep ever higher, we may finally get some new leadership in our government. I believe that if $5 per gallon gas were to hit by November, every incumbent would be thrown out of office…and that may not be a bad thing. We do need fresh leadership, fresh common sense leadership that’s willing to lay aside party politics and finally work to shore up the country for the next generation, not just the next election.
9. High gas prices are even boosting the real estate economies in some cities. Cities that offer homes, condos, and apartments within walking or biking distance of employment, schools, shopping, and cultural amenities are seeing increased interest compared to the suburbs where everything is too far away for a walk or even a bike ride.
10. High gas prices are causing some fuel retailers to offer discounts for cash. With a potential savings of 2.5%, you’ll save about 10 cents per gallon as gas hits the $4 mark. Anything that encourages people to use less credit is a GOOD thing in my book.
11. High gas prices are helping fuel the online economy. As it becomes more and more expensive to drive to the mall, shoppers are turning to their keyboards and letting their fingers do the walking. If you’ve ever considered starting an online store on Ebay, now’s the time to do it.
Another by product of the online community is the increased use of conference calls, webinars, and video conferencing to reduce the amount of money spent on travel expenses. When an executive goes to another location, not only are there significant expenses with the actual travel, but also with car rentals, meals, entertainment, hotels, and other incidentals. My one week business trips usually cost a minimum of $2,500 by the time everything is added. A video conference would cost considerably less and I wouldn’t spend another week away from my family.
12. High gas prices are causing local governments to tighten up and become more efficient with how they spend our tax dollars. Those high gas prices may also cause local governments to purchase more fuel efficient cars and trucks. When the economy DOES rebound (and it will), those governments will already have fuel efficient vehicles in their fleets and will hopefully continue to focus on the cost savings they represent.
I don’t like filling up for $70 either and I know high gas prices are a burden on many people, but there is very little we can do about it in the short term according to most experts. Focus on what we CAN do: conserve, reduce driving, make smarter choices when it comes time to buy a vehicle, maintain it well, live beneath your means, and look for the positive in every situation.
Even though the raw price seems high, when adjust for inflation, we’ve just now hit the same price levels as 1981 but, with our more fuel efficient vehicles, we’re spending 50% less of our gross domestic product on gasoline than we were in 1981.
Can YOU think of anything positive that is a direct result of higher gas prices?