After I moved my stuff out of D.C. last month, I stopped at a small gas station in New Rochelle, NY to fill up my truck before returning it. I didn’t realize that it was all full-serve until the attendant ran out to me. He had an unusual problem: the meter on his old gas pump was built incapable of recognizing gas prices higher than $3.99/gallon. As a result, the attendant explained, he now sets the meter for half the actual price of gas the customer pays double the calculated total. Apparently, some 20-30 years ago when this particular meter was built, gas at $4/gallon was completely inconceivable — a kind of Y2K for oil.
Gas prices have skyrocketed everywhere I traveled last month. And everyone seems to be blaming elected officeholders for “letting” the price spike.
But let’s be clear: what we’re experiencing is not a “spike.” It’s not heading back down anytime soon, and there’s no gas tax holiday, Alaska drilling, or biofuel investments that can change that fundamentally. Obama’s stand against the gas tax holiday was noble and a good first step. Now it’s time for someone to own up to the fact that the pain at the pump is not going away. Considering all diplomatic, environmental and social externalities, we’re still not paying the full price of oil. That’s what I’d like to hear out of a candidate’s mouth — but I won’t hold my breath.
— Scott Paul