Just a few weeks ago, I paid between 30 and 35 dollars to fill up my car. Now, suddenly, I have to pay between 40 and 45 dollars and it looks like I will soon have to pay over 50 dollars, or around 4 dollars per gallon.
For Europeans, with gasoline prices twice as high as in America, this does not seem a major problem and very little to worry about. But American drivers have begun to worry and protests are heard all over the country over gasoline prices. Many, with long commutes, say they can no longer afford to drive to work. But, as so often in America with its poor public transportation system, they have no choice. They cannot do without the car, and if they cannot afford to drive to work, they have no way of getting there and they will lose their jobs.
Here in the Washington area, we are among the fortunate in America because we have buses and even a subway system. But that is not so in many places in the country, least of all in California where the price of gasoline also happens to be the highest in the nation — now upwards towards 5 dollars per gallon.
Concerns are now growing that the steadily rising price of gasoline could threaten the U.S. economy’s still tenuous recovery. If people can’t get to work, unemployment will rise again.
This is the background to President Obama’s press conference on Friday on oil and energy issues. He firmly rejected the accusations from the Republican Party that his Administration blocked oil production and was responsible for the higher gas prices.
Today, he said, we produce more oil than in seven years while we are importing less than half of our oil consumption. The price increases are unfortunate, but we have enough oil to get through this, and if necessary, he said he was prepared to use the country’s oil reserves.
The President took the opportunity to once again argue for a new energy policy. We need to find a long term solution, he said. The American people are tired of oil prices go up and down like this.
We currently use seven percent less oil than in 2005, but, he said, we need to do more and continue to reduce demand and our dependence on oil. A comprehensive energy policy with alternative energy sources, like wind, solar, and nuclear power, is what is required.
This means new investments. But in today’s precarious economic situation, where budget cuts are at the top of the agenda, it is likely that not many people were listening, and that is most unfortunate.