Saturday, December 20, 2014

Falling Gas Prices

I've been riding my bike a lot lately, so I was pretty surprised when, during one of my rare drives a few days ago, I noticed that gas prices had dropped to about $2.25 per gallon. I'm pretty sure that's the cheapest it's ever been for as long as I've been driving. I have vague, foggy memories of gas for less that $2 per gallon when I was a kid, but I never thought I'd see anything similar ever again.

What does all of this mean, though? I'm not sure, but I have some thoughts.

First, this means that my trip back to Louisiana is going to be cheaper than I thought, since I'm driving. Which is nice, I guess.

A friend of mine posted something on Facebook recently, though: something to the effect of "every time I see gas prices fall I can't help but think, oh no, how many people are getting laid off this time?"
I can see how that would be worrisome, but I'm not sure that's how it's going to play out. I'm also not sure it isn't, though, either, as I've heard no news on that front one way or the other.

Here's what's happening, though: the United States has been rapidly increasing its oil production in the past few years, which means that we have been having to rely less and less on our foreign oil, which I believe came primarily from Nigeria. Nigeria is still producing oil, though, and they need to sell it to someone, but few people are buying.

Few people are buying because, globally, people have been reducing their reliance on fossil fuels. Whether due to a genuine effort to cut back on carbon emissions or because of the threat of economic sanctions, many industrialized countries are innovating ways to reduce pollutants and create vehicles and machinery with better fuel economy.

This combination of rising supply and falling demand means that prices are going to drop, and the dream of gas being less than $2 per gallon could very well be a reality very soon. That's just basic economics.

Is that going to mean less jobs for people in the oil field? I'm not sure. The price of oil is falling, but that's because the oil industry in the United States has been growing. If people are losing jobs, I suspect it's more likely to happen in Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and other primarily oil-producing countries rather than in the US.

Either way, though, I think it's probably for the best that the oil industry is declining. It's been a nice run, but the effect fossil fuels have had on our environment is almost certainly far more dire than most people are ready to accept. I feel bad for the people who have dedicated their lives to the oil field and don't have any place else to turn to for work, but when your industry is actively summoning the apocalypse I can't help but think that unemployment is an acceptable alternative.

Unfortunately, I'm a little concerned that falling oil prices might start making fuel economy less of a priority, stifling innovation for hybrid and electric vehicles. I hope not, and I hope that the environmental impact of such developments will be enough of an incentive to keep people working on these innovations. I'm not sure, though.

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