Gas prices are understandable

Shweta Saraswat

As I stood filling my gas tank yesterday at the local ARCO, I was awed at how fast the price digits were increasing compared to the digits for the number of gallons I was filling. It was like watching the turtle and the hare.Except in this game, it looks like the hare is going to win.And why shouldn’t it? I mean, crude oil is a natural resource that we cannot recreate – it’s bound to run out. At the rate Americans are going (the U.S. uses 7.6 billion barrels of oil a year, according to Time Magazine), it comes as no surprise that gas prices have begun to shoot up. We should have seen this coming.But I’m not upset. Sure, it is a lot of money leaving my account every week, and I understand how many people may be feeling overwhelmed and angry with providers.Still, they are not forcing us to buy gasoline. As businessmen, our suppliers made a smart decision in investing in oil, and now they’re calling the shots. Good for them. That’s what business is all about; disgustingly huge profits are part of the system.So don’t feel cheated knowing that there’s possibly an oil baron somewhere out there, sitting on stacks of our money, smoking a Cuban as he pats his belly in glee. Remember, we’ve entered this game on our own accord. There are alternatives.Public transportation thankfully still exists, if you don’t mind adding a few hours to your commute. Electric cars and hybrids – expensive but fashionable substitutes – are hitting the markets. Ethanol is catching on, though we have a ways to go.So it seems as though our trusty sports utility vehicles are still the easiest way to get around. If so, we should be willing to pay for the gas. Think of it as the price of convenience.But aren’t we entitled to our convenience without having to face rising gas prices? I don’t think so, especially when our cars are actively tearing up the ozone layer. On an interesting side note, I read recently that a Vatican official has included “polluting the environment” among the new seven social sins. When put in that context, swiping my card to pay for gas makes me feel like I’m dishing out cash for a prostitute.With all this in mind, it seems like we deserve the price hikes. On an ethical level, we’re ruining the environment with our cars, while from an economic perspective we can do nothing to keep oil supplies from eventually running out.We should be focusing on alternatives to gasoline; our car-loving society will have to be slowly weaned from what is convenient to what is simply better for the environment and more sensible in the long run.But I’m confident we’ll get there. We have to.