Are We Paying Too LITTLE for Gas?

As gas prices ratchet up to almost $5 per gallon for regular, some transportation specialists argue that we may not be paying enough.


Could it be? Are Americans enjoying the second-lowest gasoline prices in the world just after oil-exporting Mexico?  We are, says Randy Salzman, a transportation management researcher and author of the upcoming book, "Yes We Can: Getting Americans to Back Away From the Steering Wheel."

In Sunday's New York Times, Salzman contends that while oil costs the same around the world, other nations put higher fees on gas consumption.

However, a cruise around Belmont for the sole purpose of observing gas prices may lead drivers to think otherwise.

The lowest gas prices this editor found on a Monday morning were at Shell near the corner of Alameda de las Pulgas and Ralston Avenue. But at $4.35 per gallon for regular, $4.57 for diesel, it's tough to feel "lucky" about our pump prices.

Salzman says that if we'd use our cars smarter, we'd avoid a host of gas-guzzling related problems, not the least of which is keeping our children's children from fighting wars in the Middle East.

And many of us make a conserted effort to do just that---we drive hybrids, we carpool, we bike/walk, we take public transportation, and some of us work from home. But despite our best conservation efforts, we are still a car culture and will pay whatever is asked at the pump.

Take our poll below and tell us what steps you're taking to use less gas.


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Gladwyn d'Souza April 10, 2012 at 05:27 PM
We are incredibly wealth so there is no need to change our behavior. Gas would have to get to like $20/- a gallon before it starts making a dent in what we do. Higher gas prices also are good for the economy if policy is on board. Imports are down improving the balance of trade. Pollution and automotive deaths also decrease. Caltrain and SAMTRANs are enjoying highest ridership. But this like accidental government- good luck with policy and infrastructure based on efficient use of resources. Alfred E Newmans in charge. Salzman's probably talking about North America. Venezuela has the lowest gasoline. Countries with efficient governments, example, banks that don't go under, like Canada, have high gas prices.
George Kranen April 12, 2012 at 02:49 AM
Your survey should allow multiple answers. I ride public transportation more, walk more, and carpool where it makes sense. I have reduced my gasoline consumption by half from what it was a year ago. When I turned 65 and became a US Gov't Certified Old Fart, I got an RTC Translink card (now called RTC Clipper, soon to be replaced by the Senior Clipper card). This card allows me to ride Caltrain for half the regular fare, samTrans for $1, SF Muni for 75¢, and BART for less than half the regular fare. With current gasoline prices, even I can figure out that riding transit costs me less than the cost of gasoline that my car would burn were I to drive. I ride public transit if takes me where I want to go when I want to go there (and if it ain't raining too hard). I also walk a lot. It's the best exercise I can get. I regularly walk a mile from my house to Belmont Caltrain, a mile-and-a quarter to Hillsdale Caltrain (more frequent service), and 0.7 mile to El Camino Real to catch samTrans. I'm fortunate to live 0.8 mile (15 minutes on foot) from Carlmont Shopping Center, a like distance from Mollie Stone's and CVS, and a little over a mile (20 minutes) from Trader Joe's and the Hillsdale Shopping Center. To my way of thinking, it makes no damn sense to drive to these destinations (if it ain't raining too hard, that is).
Joan S. Dentler April 12, 2012 at 06:52 AM
Thanks for your comment George---you certainly are "walking the walk"!


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