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US Gasoline Prices Spur Telework 512

Posted by kdawson
from the moving-bits-not-atoms dept.
coondoggie writes "The price of gasoline may finally be changing the way many people commute and communicate. Anecdotal evidence says teleworkers are growing rapidly as a direct result of the cost of driving. The article links a survey indicating that in Q1 2007 the 19 largest US cable and telephone providers (representing about 94% of the market) acquired over 2.9 million net additional high-speed Internet subscribers, to a total of about 56.2 million. That can be attributed in part to more employees taking advantage of telework programs, experts say. Just this week the House Judiciary Committee's antitrust task force opened the first of a series of hearings on the oil industry. Its chairman noted that gasoline prices have soared well above $3 a gallon and asked, 'How did we get into this mess?'"
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US Gasoline Prices Spur Telework

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  • How? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dj245 (732906) on Saturday May 19, 2007 @01:40PM (#19191701) Homepage
    Urban sprawl, SUV's, and lack of MPG targets for manufacturers. Average MPG hasn't changed much since the 70's. I also haven't noticed any change in peoples driving habits. People still tailgate, race to the next light (even though it is red) etc. I guess they have money to burn.

    There is no good fix for the sprawl. The other two are at least somewhat addressable by some means of legislation or industry curtailing.
    • by gilesjuk (604902)
      Indeed, it's basic supply and demand. With SUVs you get more demand and the price goes up.
    • Re:How? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by thule (9041) on Saturday May 19, 2007 @01:49PM (#19191773) Homepage
      Don't forget there has not been any refineries built in 30 years, even though there has been more types of gas that the states have required. Don't forget that not only has our demand for oil continued to grow, but the world demand has also continued to grow.
      • Re:How? (Score:5, Funny)

        by BakaHoushi (786009) <Goss.SeanNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday May 19, 2007 @02:24PM (#19192047) Homepage
        Wait, wait, wait...

        So... you're telling me, there are other countries in the world? And that these other countries have economies? And these economies change, which, in turn, requires a shift in the required natural resources, including the amount of oil they require?

        I'm sorry, but I find that a little hard to believe.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by timeOday (582209)

        Don't forget there has not been any refineries built in 30 years,
        So why don't we import refined gasoline instead of crude? I'm sure we could have it made to whatever specification is required.
        • Re:How? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by j79zlr (930600) on Saturday May 19, 2007 @03:35PM (#19192607) Homepage
          Obviously it is less expensive to refine it here. Market dictates. Thats the whole point. The environmental restrictions in place make it impossible to build a new refinery, but that doesn't help the environment. The fact that 30+ year old refineries are allowed to continue production under inefficient and environmentally unfriendly practices which cost us instead of building newer, more efficient refineries, that produce less harmful contaminants and more gasoline because they aren't grandfathered in, is ridiculous.
    • Re:How? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MyLongNickName (822545) on Saturday May 19, 2007 @01:49PM (#19191785) Journal
      lack of MPG targets for manufacturers
      The other two are at least somewhat addressable by some means of legislation or industry curtailing.

      A more sane way of solving the problem is to have the consumer pay the true cost of energy. Does the gasoline you buy require us to import from unstable governments, resulting in a higher defense bill when we are in more conflicts over it? Put a tax on gas to foot the bill. Does gasoline hurt the environment? Put a tax on it to cover the cost.

      Worried about tax payer backlash? Give out a refund check to cover the average cost. Those who buy the fuel efficient car or choose not to live an hour from work will make a killing. Those who don't will get killed. I bet you'd see habits change REAL quick.

      In
    • by reporter (666905) on Saturday May 19, 2007 @01:59PM (#19191863) Homepage
      Gas prices in the USA are not particularly high -- even at $3.50 per gallon. Gas in Europe [toledoblade.com] costs $10 per gallon.

      Such high prices in Europe does not hurt the European standard of living because many Europeans use public transportation; bus and trains are relatively cheap to ride. In the USA, many Americans refuse to use public transportation due to class snobbery. In my neck of the woods, about 80% of the passengers on the bus is either impoverished Americans (from ghetto neighborhoods) or illegal aliens from Mexico. The occupancy of the buses is about 50% during most of the day. Meanwhile, the freeways are packed with late-model cars driven by the wealthier class.

      Frankly, even if gas prices increased to $10 per gallon in the USA, Americans would not necessarily experience a decline in their standard of living -- if they use public transportation. It is cheap although it may be slighly inconvenient because you must time your life according to the bus or train schedule.

      Note that American politicians never compare European gas prices to American gas prices. The politicians just tell Americans what they want to hear: "Gas at $3.50 is too expensive. We Americans are a sad, pathetic victim of the greedy oil companies. We should force them to lower gas prices back to $1.50 per gallon so we can enjoy your monster SUV."

      These are the same Americans who overwhelmingly supported the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by CowboyBob500 (580695)
        Exactly. Everytime someone from the US says how high their gas prices are, I just laugh. $3 per gallon is cheap. Very cheap.

        Bob
        • by fbjon (692006) on Saturday May 19, 2007 @02:52PM (#19192313) Homepage Journal
          Indeed [csmonitor.com]. An interesting quote:

          "European per capita consumption of gas and diesel stood at 286 liters a year in 2001, compared to 1,624 in the US, according to IEA figures."
      • by notamisfit (995619) on Saturday May 19, 2007 @02:12PM (#19191975)
        You know, I don't think we've seen so much as a drop of oil out of Iraq. From what I've heard, China and Vietnam are the ones getting the contracts. Not that I really care; most of the Middle Eastern oilfields were illegally nationalized from US or British companies anyways. (If it wasn't for the West, they'd still be driving camels on top of the world's richest oil deposits.) That's the _really_ scary thing about Iraq; Bush honestly seems to believe that letting Iraq vote itself into another Islamic Republic is going to be the thing that brings peace and stability to the region.

        As for public transportation, it's feasible -- in the metropolitan areas. Out here in farm country, it's a lost cause (and the lower property taxes and intangibles like better schools probably make up for the extra money spent on fuel).
        • I agree, except I think you're giving Bush way too much credit. He probably believed that Iraq would turn itself into a liberal democracy as soon as the tyrant at the top was removed. ( It's not surprising that he should have that view; it will probably work in his own country...)
      • Did you ever see the public transport system in the US. I have. I can understand why people refuse to use it.

        Also, for a lot of people there is no viable alternative. The US style of sprawling out towns into miles and miles of suburbs means that you HAVE to have a car, often there isn't even a public trans system.

        Public transport here is subsidized. Heavily subsidized. I get the whole town for 500 bucks a year, almost round the clock with 3-15 minutes wait time, tops. In clean, safe and reliable trains and
        • by tempestdata (457317) on Saturday May 19, 2007 @02:30PM (#19192105)
          I live in Los Angeles, the second biggest American city and I can tell you first hand that the public transport system here SUCKS! I HAD to buy a car.. Absolutely HAD to, even when I was a flat broke student living in a room the size of the car I bought. Yes it was a used old banger, but I was actually able to get around! To build a functioning public transport system you need money. I wouldn't mind taking twice the time to get to/from work everyday using public transport just so I dont have to drive, but the way the public transport system is. It would end up taking 3 times as much (An 1 hour and 30 minutes!) and that is just absurd.
          If only our government would spend more of the money they take from us, and spend it back on us. Instead, what I see is them taking my money so they can go bomb some people. The worst part is? I have to live with the knowledge, that I, for my part, am working hard every day to help pay for those weapons.

          Gas is too expensive at $3? HA! Lower the damn income tax rate, and tax the gas consumption. A responsible government would do this. Unfortunately, if there are heavier taxes brought on gas, our income tax wont fall to compensate, we'll just be paying for more missiles, and guns.

          Just imagine. For a minute.. impossible as it may seem. If $6/gallon were levied as a gas tax in all counties with a population density over a certain threshold, to pay for a public transport system for that county. To make it faster, cleaner, safer and more convenient. I'd gladly pay $9 a gallon to gas my car up then.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by tftp (111690)
            If $6/gallon were levied as a gas tax in all counties with a population density over a certain threshold, to pay for a public transport system for that county. To make it faster, cleaner, safer and more convenient. I'd gladly pay $9 a gallon to gas my car up then.

            What planet are you from, dreaming about anything that is efficiently operated by a government, that is faster, cleaner and convenient??? If you get your wish you'd be paying $9/gal and your money will be wasted, misdirected, and otherwise lost

        • Chicken and the egg (Score:4, Interesting)

          by benhocking (724439) <<benjaminhocking> <at> <yahoo.com>> on Saturday May 19, 2007 @02:36PM (#19192153) Homepage Journal

          Did you ever see the public transport system in the US. I have. I can understand why people refuse to use it.
          Without resorting to significant subsidies (which most Americans loathe, even though they aren't aware of just how many subsidies already exist), what you've just stated is a vicious cycle. Without a significant number of people riding public transportation, there is inadequate funds to improve public transportation. Until public transportation is improved, you won't have a significant number of people riding it.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Opportunist (166417)
            And that's why a pure market economy does not work. My country developed something akin to "social market economy". We're moving away from it (read: it gets worse), but for a long time we had basic economy in governmental hands (power, water, natural gas (not fuel), sewage, even phone and postal service), and also the public transport. I.e. they provided the foundation for you to build a business on top of it. It worked, sometimes better, sometimes worse, but it was reliably good or bad.

            Yes, we paid more ba
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by mrchaotica (681592) *

            Without resorting to significant subsidies...

            I think you've hit the nail on the head here. The road system in America is significantly subsidized, yet the rail system and public transportation systems are expected to make a profit! What. The. Fuck?!

            • Without resorting to significant subsidies...

              I think you've hit the nail on the head here. The road system in America is significantly subsidized, yet the rail system and public transportation systems are expected to make a profit! What. The. Fuck?!

              Which is why I personally believe all public roads should be toll roads. Repeal the tax on gasoline entirly, and all other taxes that go into keeping up the roads. Use the tolls that are generated to fix the roads. Hell, Roads could even be entirely private, and *gasp* could be made to be profitable! (I know, asserting that profit making is good is blasphemy in slashdot's eyes).

              If Americans had to pay for the use of the roads, explicitly, they may turn to public transportation. At least pay per use w

              • by DeadChobi (740395) <DeadChobi@@@gmail...com> on Saturday May 19, 2007 @04:38PM (#19193103)
                No, if Americans had to pay for the roads they would be forced to quit their jobs or not eat. There is no public transportation for most of us. What we do have is slow, dirty, and doesn't go outside of urban areas. You've really only mastered one aspect of our economic dependence on the road system. A lot of us would turn to public transportation if only it existed. I would be happy to pay tax on it as a student. The problem is our government doesn't see what a wise investment it will be in a few years.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Did you ever see the public transport system in the US. I have. I can understand why people refuse to use it.

          Its non-existence in most places is a pretty good deterrent. I would much rather use public transportation than own my own vehicle. I hate driving, dealing with other drivers, paying for insurance & vehicle maintenance & gasoline, making the yearly donation to the DMV to keep it registered, and still having it break down from time to time. A lot of people consider the automobile as symbol
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by ancientt (569920)

            Amen. I considered the bus schedules (there are trains but none useful to my needs) and I came up with the result that with two bicycles, one at each end, I could actually manage to be at home for a total eight hours a day if I had to rely on public transportation. If there were a bus that ran between my city and the one I work in, and buses that came within half a mile of either from the central locations, I still would spend four hours a day in transit. I would not be willing to give up that time with my

        • by epee1221 (873140) on Saturday May 19, 2007 @02:40PM (#19192201)

          In the USA, many Americans refuse to use public transportation due to class snobbery.
          Did you ever see the public transport system in the US. I have. I can understand why people refuse to use it.
          Exactly. I don't avoid public transportation here because of snobbery. I avoid it because it is of low quality. With my car, I can roll out of bed at 8 and be at work before 8:30 minutes. If I had to take the bus, I would have to get up around 6:30, walk a mile and a half, get on one bus, ride to the middle of town, change buses (and hope everything's on schedule), ride out to work, and get there around 9. I would also likely have to get off work early in order to be able to take the bus back to where I got on (a mile and a half from home).
          On top of all that, once I already have a car, it's cheaper to use it drive myself to work than to pay for the bus fare. (It's about $3 for a day's driving, $4 for a day's busing -- $6 for the bus if I pay for each ride individually)
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by archen (447353)
          Cars have circumvented public transportation because of their popularity, the American mentality, and marketing.

          I live around Scranton PA - it's known as the electric city because it had the first successful electric trolley system in the U.S.. You could go pretty much anywhere using public transportation. Stops were frequent and the grid reached just about everywhere. Today the trolley system is no more. It was replaced by buses for a time, which worked pretty well, but is now reduced to about 8 bus ro
      • Because here around 70% (europe) of the gas price is due to taxes (it used to be that way but now it is probably around 60% due to the oil price raise). I do not think you gas in the US is taxed as much.

        Here are some link about this tax rate on fuel in europe :
        About.com on fuel gas price (first paragraph) [about.com]
        US reluctant to match Europe Gas price taxation [signonsandiego.com]

        Quote :
        For decades, European countries have imposed high taxes on fuel to encourage conservation and fuel-efficient technologies while funding publ
      • by figleaf (672550)
        I live on the outskirts of the city. I would like to take the bus if it was more frequent.
        The bus service is only available in the morning and evening hours on weekdays and no bus service on weekends.
        On top of that the bus drivers don't stick to schedule sometimes its 15 minutes early or an 1/2 hour late.
      • by koreth (409849) * on Saturday May 19, 2007 @02:27PM (#19192079)

        In the USA, many Americans refuse to use public transportation due to class snobbery.

        In much the USA, many Americans refuse to use public transportation because they want to get to work in a half-hour rather than spending four hours hopping from bus to bus to train to bus. That is certainly the situation in the San Francisco Bay Area. I am not exaggerating those times, either; a few years ago, I had a contract in Pleasanton, about 35 minutes by car from my home in Sunnyvale. My car needed to be in the shop for a few days so I decided to take public transit. How bad could it be, right? Pretty damned bad, [511.org] is the answer. (The bus stop at the start of that route is about a 10-minute walk from my house; there are none closer. And note the price, too, though a monthly transit pass would cut that way down for a regular user.)

        Who I was sitting next to was not the issue; the issue was that it took so damned long to get to the office that, if I had to do that every day, I'd be doing literally nothing but riding the bus/train, working, and sleeping. That's why you mostly see poor people on the bus: people with enough money to buy and operate a car would rather spend several extra hours a day with their families.

        One root cause, in this area at least, is idiotic zoning policy that makes it illegal for most people to live close to where they work. The cities around here are divided into residential areas with the occasional convenience store or restaurant, and industrial/commercial areas with no housing other than the occasional programmer sleeping under his desk after an all-nighter. As a result, there is very little of interest within walking distance from most people's homes. And since those same zoning laws generally prohibit buildings more than a couple floors high even in the commercial areas, everything is spread out so far and wide that it's utterly impossible to design good public transit systems like those of higher-density cities. (Well, you *could* design one, but it would cost so much to operate that people would find it cheaper to drive their own cars.)

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by EugeneK (50783)
          One root cause, in this area at least, is idiotic zoning policy that makes it illegal for most people to live close to where they work.

          A good point; don't forget that the zoning policies are constantly being maintained by NIMBY homeowners who dread the consequences of higher density close to their neighborhoods, for example in Menlo Park recently [yahoo.com], a plan to build high density housing near the Caltrain was shot down by the wealthy NIMBY homeowners who would like to preserve the suburban character of their ne
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by garcia (6573)
          In much the USA, many Americans refuse to use public transportation because they want to get to work in a half-hour rather than spending four hours hopping from bus to bus to train to bus. That is certainly the situation in the San Francisco Bay Area. I am not exaggerating those times, either

          You're not exaggerating for the Minneapolis metro area either. We own one car and my wife takes public transportation daily (we both rode the train downtown from another suburb 15 mins away last night -- the nearest st
      • Americans refuse to use public transportation due to class snobbery

        Nonsense. For a large percentage of Americans, mass transit is simply not an option. For example, there is no mass transit between my home and my job ... period. Secondarily, it is obviously much more convenient and comfortable to drive your own vehicle rather than adapting your schedule and personal comforts to public/mass transit. It has nothing to do with snobbery and everything to do with convenience and comfort.

      • In the USA, many Americans refuse to use public transportation due to class snobbery.

        I don't think so. Here (Minneapolis, MN) many people do use the bus to commute, and I'd think a lot more would if only the buses would go to their workplaces at the times they work. You see, the transit system here assumes that everyone works from 9 a.m to 5 p.m. in downtown. Work in another suburb? You're outta luck. Don't hold to the traditional 9-5 schedule? Again, no buses for you.

        I'm a student living at home.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by timeOday (582209)

        Gas prices in the USA are not particularly high -- even at $3.50 per gallon. Gas in Europe costs $10 per gallon.
        But most of the difference is taxes, which goes back to the taxpayers (instead of into $400m retirement packages).
    • by Colin Smith (2679) on Saturday May 19, 2007 @02:06PM (#19191921)
      I disagree:

      http://www.personalrapidtransit.com/ [personalrapidtransit.com]

       
    • by Colin Smith (2679)

      The other two are at least somewhat addressable by some means of legislation or industry curtailing.
      Will only extend the existing situation. Let them gouge prices, eventually either people will switch to an alternative or someone will find a way to provide cheaper gas.

       
    • Actually, I think the mileage is doing pretty well considering all the other safety and emissions equipment manufacturers have to put in. So we have somewhat heavier cars, more powerful engines, and gas mileage that is at least comparable if not better than in the past.
    • by Trifthen (40989)
      It's not just that. This is freaking 2007! Why the hell do we have to drive to work, when very few jobs actually require being at a specific building every day? Most "work" could be done from a home office, via phone, webcam, or VPN, with maybe an occasional visit to the office for important meetings or mass coordination.

      I take the Chicago L for twenty minutes a day so I can... sit at a desk for eight hours and code or manage databases through our VPN.

      It's this pointless adherence to 1980's methodology t
  • by Harmonious Botch (921977) * on Saturday May 19, 2007 @01:41PM (#19191711) Homepage Journal
    TFA says"teleworkers are growing rapidly as a direct result of the cost of driving."
    Yep, now I never have to leave my Mom's basement except for trips to 7-11 to restock the fridge.

    Ohhh! You meant the number of teleworkers?? Oops. Never mind.
  • by geek (5680) on Saturday May 19, 2007 @01:48PM (#19191771) Homepage
    I always preferred walking or riding but the gas prices are what finally drove me over the edge. I live in CA and it's pushing 4$ a gallon right now, in some places it's gone over 4. So I just ride my bike, everything I need is in riding distance. If I do have to go further I have my car, which is a rather fuel efficient Saturn. I think I've put all of 60$ in the tank this year total. To me that's how it should be.

    I blame a lot of the fuel efficiency problems on city planers. The layouts of our cities are really bad for fuel economy, especially place like San Francisco and Los Angeles. California also suffers badly from a lack of a good public transit system. We have buses but it's not good enough.

    Part of the problem is also social. People want their big tanks (Hummer, Suburban etc) because they feel safe in them. For whatever reason people equate size with safety even though it's not the actual case.
    • by catbutt (469582)
      Can you back up the statement that size does not correllate with safety? True, big vehicles are dangerous to *others*, but we're talking your own safety.

      In my opinion, it's a bit of an arms race. People are less safe in small cars because of all the large cars.

      (and btw, don't think I'm defending SUV drivers. I drive an old Vespa as well as a bicycle here in San Francisco, so I'm no fan of SUVs )
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Silver Sloth (770927)
        The drivers of small cars, like us cylists, are far, far more road aware. The divers of large tank like cars feel safe in their boxes and don't feel they have to worry so much. Hence the drivers of small cars drive better and are safer.
        • by catbutt (469582)
          That's bizarre logic. You are suggesting that the only reason people in smaller vehicles are safer is because they are actually in more danger , and therefore they compensate (through their behavior) more than the actual danger?

          Why would they compensate more than the amount of increased danger?
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Dr_Barnowl (709838)
            They're only really in more danger because of the SUVs...

            The SUV carries a great deal more mass, which makes collisions with it more energetic. Now, the SUV can expend some of that mass as extra "armor", which makes them safer for their occupants.

            If everyone drove the modern day equivalent of the bubble car [wikipedia.org], with modern materials they'd be very safe - and the pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, etc, would be much safer too. Oh, and they'd save craploads of gas. Of course, this is impractical for everyone
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by CheeseTroll (696413)
        It isn't so much the size that makes SUVs less safe, but their high center of gravity, which makes them more prone to rollovers. In the winter, we see SUVs flipped over in the ditch all the time. They'll hit a slippery patch, their tires will catch on a ridge on the side of the road, and away they go.

        I think they should create a NASCAR-like race using SUVs. Then people would really see the difference in handling between them and a low-slung car.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by jedrek (79264)
        Can you back up the statement that size does not correllate with safety?

        There's this article about how unsafe SUVs are for their occupants [gladwell.com] and there was a whole thing about how much better it is to be in an accident in a (tiny, by American standards) BMW Mini vs a huge Ford F-150 [google.com].

        Pure size does not equal safety the same way that raw megahertz don't equal performance.
    • You could live in Michigan, where the weather is not suitable for bike riding about 250 days per year. Then what do you do? It's either raining or at least seriously threatening rain or storms, or were buried in snow, or it's 85+ degrees / 80% humidity for the summer. Getting to work all hot and sweaty or drenched is not an option.

      California has one of the most benign and hospitable climates on Earth, and can't be used as an example.

      I love public transporation and am all for it, but it sickens me t
      • by BKX (5066)
        I hear ya. Public transport in Michigan sucks as well. Grand Rapids has one of the best bus systems in the country (if you believe the hype) but I don't no of anyone who can use it, since no one lives near a bus stop. The few people I do know who live close enough to get on, live so close to work that it's cheaper to use their car.
  • Congress! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Saturday May 19, 2007 @01:49PM (#19191777) Homepage

    How did we get into this mess?

    Congress!

    Let's see what congress HASN'T done...

    • Made it easier to construct refineries to avoid the problems right after Katrina
    • Allow drilling in ANOIR
    • Allow drilling off the continental shelf in the gulf
    • Set federal gasoline standards so gas could be used anywhere, instead of each state requiring different blends and ruining some of the economy of scale we could have
    • Raise CAFE standards more than once ever 20 years, and then only by like 3 gallons. Every car should be getting 30+ at this point, every truck/SUV 20. We can do it.
    • Use Iraqi oil for reconstruction and running our equipment. In a rush to avoid looking like the war (which I support) was for oil (which everyone thought anyway) we've wasted tons of money and oil that could be shipped to the US, the savings put towards gas tax reductions or rebates, etc.
    • Working to make diesel more common here now that we have relatively clean and efficient diesels. Europe has them. We should too.

    What, exactly HAS congress done to lower gas prices? Ethanol subsidies? Hydrogen research? Those haven't done much, have they? I remember 7 years ago when I saw a station out of town with gas for 99 cents a gallon. I'd be very surprised to find a station right now in my area at triple that. Ok, I know, they passed tax rebates when you buy a hybrid. But they passed them when hybrids were very hard to get and the expire this year as hybrids are getting easier to get. Oops.

    • You forgot what they could have done regarding expanded use of nuclear power, similar to how John Kerry forgot to mention Poland as part of the initial coalition when speaking about the Iraq War in the 2004 presidential debates.
    • Re:Congress! (Score:5, Informative)

      by Dachannien (617929) on Saturday May 19, 2007 @02:11PM (#19191971)
      That's ANWR, not "ANOIR".

      The big problem this summer is refining capacity. We've already seen the spike in oil prices into the $60/bbl range caused by increased Chinese demand for oil, and that hasn't really budged a whole lot since last year. Oil inventories have been good since then. The reason prices are so high right now is because of gasoline supply concerns, i.e., post-refining, and while I'm in favor of expanding drilling operations into both the eastern Gulf of Mexico and ANWR to offset worldwide demand increases (and thereby obtain price relief from increases over the last couple of years), this year's gasoline increases have nothing to do with that.

      There were already a number of scheduled refinery maintenance shutdowns, and then BP had a major refinery go down for "unscheduled maintenance". Personally, I'm a bit suspicious of any unscheduled refinery maintenance. One of Enron's tactics to manipulate the electricity market was to create artificial shortages by calling up power plants and asking them to shut down temporarily. Hopefully, that's what Congressional hearings will be looking into. If there are no shenanigans going on at that level, then really there's nothing punitive they can do about it. What you're seeing is simple supply and demand combined with smart moves by speculators who bought gasoline low and are now selling it high. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if some gasoline retailers are buying a small portion of their supply at higher-than-retail just to keep their gas stations in stock.

      Refiners are stuck with expanding current operations, which is generally limited to technology updates and expanding into whatever surrounding land they have available. Unfortunately, it's late enough in the game now that refiners are going to resist the urge to build new large-scale refining capacity even if they could get a license to, because ethanol is starting to gear up, and by the time the refiners could actually get a new plant built (including the years upon years of environmental impact studies), the demand for gasoline will already be dropping in favor of alternative fuels (probably increased ethanol-gasoline blends, but that's still less gasoline being needed).
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mbkennel (97636)
      Regarding above points:

      Industry also had little incentive or desire to build refineries. And it's
      better to use less gasoline as well. And refineries have had capacity
      expansion equivalent to 10 new refineries.

      There are some annoying problems with clean air standards raising prices,
      but one of the principal ones comes from Federal political interference.

      In California, the refiners are FORCED, against their desire, to use
      ethanol imported expensively (and not compatible with cheap pipelines)
      from politically po
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by fermion (181285)
      At some point, one has to take responsibility for one's own actions, and responsibility for one's own life. Not only that, but in times of long conflict, when our soldiers are dying on foriegn soil, it is often traditional to support those troops by making sacrifices, rather than complaining that one can't have honey and ice cream every day.

      So here we are with a very predictable rise in gasoline. Do people take responsiblity for thier choices? No they complain that the government is not giving handouts

    • According to the CIA World Factbook of 2007 [nationmaster.com], the US is currently consuming 20.7 million barrels of oil per day. Let's suppose that "the amount of technically recoverable oil in the ANWR 1002 area 'is estimated to be between 4.3 and 11.8 billion barrels ... with a mean value of 7.7 billion barrels.'" [mediamatters.org]

      Quick, do the math. 7.7 billion divided by 20.7 million per day gives us ... 371 days -- just over a year's worth. And it will take about 10 years [nrdc.org] for the drilling to come online.

      Personally, I don't think

    • # Allow drilling in ANOIR
      # Allow drilling off the continental shelf in the gulf


      Not a good idea.

      Oil pulled out of there now would probably simply go on the global market. Since it's not a particularly huge amount in comparison to what's out there, it probably wouldn't depress prices significantly. Especially since competition for industrial resources is getting steeper as China, India, and some third-world countries enter the game.

      At some point, it seems likely the peak oil shinola really will splatter upon
  • We were warned. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by oddaddresstrap (702574) on Saturday May 19, 2007 @01:51PM (#19191795)
    How did we get into this mess?
    We were given a whack in the head about thirty years ago. We got up, dusted ourselves off and carried on as if nothing had happened.
  • The article is making the case for government support of teleworkers while questioning the reasons for >3$/gal fuel. While that is a good premise I don't think that it covers everything. I work from home when I can. I want to stop smoking to save money but I suddenly realized that if I work from home I save the same as not smoking 1.5 packs that day. Yes, gasoline is becoming a very expensive habit. I hope that this story and related issues do bring about an atmosphere where my employer is willing to let
  • How did we (congress) get into this mess? By regulating the daylights out of the industry.
    • by randomErr (172078)
      It isn't just Congress. Its all the states and cities that add fee's for every little road project.
  • Simple:
    -Environmental regulation have gone out of control. The regs are to the point that no one has the $$$ to build any new plants
    - NIMBY - Not In My BackYard - Not one wants to live by a stinky, noisy refinery. I know, I've lived next to one my whole life; it isn't pleasant.
    -Each state has at least 50 cents of tax that gets directly added to the gas at the pump in addition the other taxes the companies have to pay (import tax, environmental and safety fees)
    - There been 3 major refinery fires within a fi
    • Although no NEW refineries have been built for a long time,
      existing refineries have had their capacity increased very
      significantly over a couple of decades, equivalent of
      10 new refineries.

      And, yes, old refineries were really big sources of nasty
      air pollution. Stop knocking the environmentalists---they've
      made life much nicer in many ways. There are kooks, of course, but
      air pollution restrictions on refineries are not kooky.

      Gasoline is expensive, overall, because we're using fossil fuel
      which is reaching in
  • According to a news report last night, these crazy gas prices aren't due to our gas guzzlers our the rising cost of crude oil. Actually, crude oil is cheaper now than it was a year ago, and oil companies make about 30 dollars for every barrel they turn into gasoline. This is more about oil companies loving money than anything else. Sorry I don't have any links/references, but I do trust CBS well enough to have their facts in line.
    • by ElephanTS (624421)
      but I do trust CBS well enough to have their facts in line

      Lol, you betcha. Bless your naivety.

    • by figleaf (672550)
      All this time I thought the fact that Dollar is falling against other currencies is contributing to the price hike.

      Anyways the $3 is half of what several Europeans and Asian countries are paying for gasoline so its not that bad.
    • Sorry I don't have any links/references

      here [economist.com] you go. It doesn't actually support your point of view; gasoline prices are set by supply & demand, and as the article says, we actually ship gasoline from Europe because of our shortage in refinery capacity.

  • by 26199 (577806) * on Saturday May 19, 2007 @02:01PM (#19191881) Homepage

    Why is tax on gasoline in the USA so ridiculously low?

    Either that or our (UK here, but I'm sure it applies elsewhere in Europe) tax is ridiculously high. Hmmmmm.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Poppler (822173)

      Why is tax on gasoline in the USA so ridiculously low [compared with Europe]?

      The problem is that unlike Europe, most of the United States doesn't have a viable public transportation system. Unless you live in a major city, you're pretty much stuck driving - the closest bus stop to my house is about 10 miles away, and I live in one of the more densely populated suburban areas in the country.

      In Europe, driving is a luxury, but in most of the US, it's a necessity. I could understand places like NYC imposing a high gasoline tax, but in much of the country, it would be an unfair burden

    • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Saturday May 19, 2007 @03:10PM (#19192467)

      Why is tax on gasoline in the USA so ridiculously low?

      Because, unlike in Europe, our cities are new enough to have been (stupidly) designed for cars instead of people. Now we're screwed, and have to have artificially low prices on gas to compensate.

  • I did not read the article yet, but I just thought it orthogonal to my experience;

    My only reason (because we know how great cable tv is) was one year internet at $19.95, total $29.95 w/analog cable, not the regular price like $59/mo, which was a non-starter for me for many, many years (though I previosly while living in a big city).

    When this is pricing is over I will look for other options; wireless is becoming widespread even in rural areas.
  • by Colin Smith (2679) on Saturday May 19, 2007 @02:02PM (#19191893)
    Human nature. Consume while it's cheap. You see it in every aspect of human behaviour.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy_of_the_common s [wikipedia.org]

    This is why socialism doesn't work and why market economics does.

     
    • by mkcmkc (197982)

      [Tragedy_of_the_commons]
      This is why socialism doesn't work and why market economics does.

      So, you're saying that we should

      1. cut back on corporate welfare,
      2. stop subsidizing oil companies, and
      3. let gasoline prices rise to their true market value?
      Sounds good to me!
    • by mvdwege (243851) <mvdwege@mail.com> on Saturday May 19, 2007 @07:06PM (#19194113) Homepage Journal

      Dude, go take Economics 101 before you spout off nonsense in public, it might save you the embarassment.

      The Tragedy of the Commons is a problem with a free market system, because the Commons is an externality: the users of the Commons don't pay the cost of the maintenance equally to the profit they gain from exploiting it, therefore they have an incentive to exhaust the Commons.

      Collective action, either by taxation (so that the externality is reflected in the costs) or by outright rationing access to the Commons is the only thing that can stop the Tragedy occuring. And collective action to regulate access to a Commons is one of the defining characteristics of Socialism. Depending on how this is implemented it may be either old-fashioned authoritarian Socialism, Libertarian Socalism, or a mixed model like European-style Social Democracy, but the free market is definitely no solution here.

      Mart
  • Positive change (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Simon80 (874052) on Saturday May 19, 2007 @02:06PM (#19191925)
    I'll support these outrageous gas prices if they're finally high enough to make people rethink their horribly inefficient daily commutes. I find it wrong that there is such a huge flow of cars going back and forth every single day.
  • I hope soestion (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dr_Barnowl (709838) on Saturday May 19, 2007 @02:07PM (#19191929)
    I really hope it takes off.

    I don't even drive.. I have a 50 mile train journey each day, which takes 2 hours either way (if I'm lucky). I could obviously drive that distance much faster if it wasn't for the ludicrous congestion at either end of the trip. I did the math and even with my teensy little 796cc engine it still costs me less on the train (even if they did raise the fare by a full 13% this year), what with parking. And on the train I can read, or even work sometimes.

    But even so, I'd prefer to be able to get up an hour later in the morning, I'd even work an extra hour! A nice comfy purpose-built office space at home would be infinitely superior to the ridiculous battery-hen office where everyone gabbles and cackles and holds meetings around my desk. I can't be expected to perform duties that are based on the conjunction of creativity and focus in that environment. Even cubes would be preferable to a totally open-plan office... thank heavens for my Etymotic earplug-phones or I'd never get anything done at all.

    So anyway, my point is, that the public transport in this country sucks. The typical response of the rail company to an increase in passenger numbers is to raise prices. If the price of fuel drives people off the roads (and our fuel taxes here make our gasoline roughly double the price it is in 'merca), then the trains simultaneously get more crowded, late, and expensive. The last remaining palatable option is teleworking - may everyone embrace it.

    Not only that, it's the most environmentally friendly option.
  • by fyrwurxx (907932) on Saturday May 19, 2007 @02:12PM (#19191977)
    "The higher prices reflect an imbalance between supply and demand"

    Yeah, and I'm sure your profit margin has absolutely nothing to do with it.

    As an environment-conscious individual, I relish higher gas prices. $3 a gallon? Why not $5 or $10? I truly believe hitting people in the wallet is the *only* way to incite change in habits as deeply-rooted as our gasoline addiction. People need to realize that carpooling, investing in very fuel-efficient vehicles (for example, I drive a manual transmission Saturn--I average 30mpg city) or looking toward hybrid/bio-diesel options is not just a fanciful dream but a necessary reality. Alternative fuel vehicles are a reality, but the only way we will leverage them into the mainstream is through the power of our collective consumer's almighty dollar (and pound, and yen... ;)
  • by noidentity (188756) on Saturday May 19, 2007 @02:34PM (#19192131)
    "[...] teleworkers are growing rapidly as a direct result of the cost of driving"

    I guess that walk to the car and back each day was keeping them slim.
  • by jfruhlinger (470035) on Saturday May 19, 2007 @02:40PM (#19192199) Homepage
    I happened to be updating my money info in Quicken when this story popped up, so I thought I'd see how much gas prices really hit my pocketbook.

    In the past 12 months, gas has constituted 0.81% of our family spending. For the 12 months before that, it was 0.66%. A good-sized bump in relative terms, I suppose, but one that can be absorbed without pain in relative terms because the number was so small to begin with.

    My wife's office is only about five miles away from our house, but on the other hand, she does have to do a fair amount of driving for work-related reasons during the day, so I imagine her work-related driving isn't terribly outside the norm. I do work at home, though for non-gas-related reasons, but even if you double our gas spending to get to the more typical two-commute family, we'd still be at less than 2 percent of our family budget -- certainly not something that would put us in the poorhouse. And while we're not hurting for cash, we're certainly not wealthy -- between the two of us we make less than $100K a year, less than a lot of IT folks make with one salary.

    My question is, are we some kind of freaks when it comes to gas use compared to most Americans? We live in a city neighborhood where we can walk to places for some basic errands and our grocery store is two-minute drive away; on the other hand, the city we live has a pretty lousy public transit system, so if we're doing things outside our neighborhood, we invariably drive. We don't drive a big SUV, but we don't drive a hybrid either: and our sedan is 13 years old, so I imagine it's not particularly fuel efficient when compared to new cars of the same size. Yet I feel like gas prices would have to triple before we'd be really forced to reorder our priorities to feed our car. Are we really so far outside the American norm when it comes to gas use? Or are gas prices just one of those things that you see two or three times a month and so you really notice when they go up, but it doesn't realy have as much of an impact on your life as you think?
    • by frogstar_robot (926792) <frogstar_robot@yahoo.com> on Saturday May 19, 2007 @03:47PM (#19192715)
      It isn't just what we personally spend on gasoline. I've noticed prices on fresh produce and other things in the grocery store are up too. High fuel prices affect the price of everything. Almost everything in the store came by ship, truck, or train. That takes fuel and higher fuel costs are passed on to consumers. High fuel prices are costing you more than a 0.15% household budget increase. Some families have to do more driving than you do so the direct costs for others is higher as well. That means many people stay home more and spend less when they are out. That will ripple through the economy as well.

      This is a much larger issue than your monthly gasoline bill.
  • Size does matter! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 3seas (184403) on Saturday May 19, 2007 @04:10PM (#19192869) Journal
    For those comparing the EU gas prices to that of the US....

    I found the public transportation system of Europe to be wonderful.
    But the US is just bigger and that means its more difficult to create and maintain a public transportation system.

    I live in Atlanta GA close to I-285 which is 60 miles full circle.
    As slow as traffic can be, I'd prefer public transportation, if it only existed close enough to where I work, but it doesn't.

    Perhaps the real problem is that of figuring out a better public transportation system. One that can handle the size problem yet help to keep traffic congestion to a minimum whele itself having low fuel cost.

    Oh I know.....Teleportation........ hmmmm.... of work, not people (until that gets figured out....)

The meta-Turing test counts a thing as intelligent if it seeks to devise and apply Turing tests to objects of its own creation. -- Lew Mammel, Jr.

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