An Argument for High Gas Prices

An Argument for High Gas Prices July 22, 2008

Rising prices at the gas pump appear to be having at least one positive effect: Traffic deaths around the country are plummeting, just as they did during the Arab oil embargo three decades ago.

Researchers with the National Safety Council report a 9 percent drop in motor vehicle deaths overall through May compared with the first five months of 2007, including a drop of 18 percent in March and 14 percent in April.

Preliminary figures obtained by The Associated Press show that some states have reported declines of 20 percent or more. Thirty-one states have seen declines of at least 10 percent, and eight states have reported an increase, according to the council.

No one can say definitively why road fatalities are falling, but it is happening as Americans cut back sharply on driving because of record-high gas prices.

Fewer people on the road means fewer fatalities, said Gus Williams, 52, of Albany, Ga., who frequently drives to northern Ohio. “That shows a good thing coming out of this crisis.” He has also noticed that many motorists are going slower.

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  • So, if I’m happy about reduced traffic fatalities, but not specifically about the fact that it is due to high gas prices, am I still formally cooperating with evil?

  • Morning’s Minion

    There are plenty of good prices for high gas prices. In the US, gas prices are still ineffciently low, in their social cost exceeds their priavet cost, imposing a negative externality on the community (pollution, congestion etc). And yes, having fewer accidents is a positiev side effect. Now all we need is more public transportation.

  • jh

    I think I will take the Lower Gas prices

  • jpf

    Excellent reason for us to find a silver lining in higher fuel prices.

    Now I can’t wait until food prices go up even higher. Think of the good that will do. If people can’t afford food then they can’t eat. If people can’t eat then they will become thinner. A thinner and less obese America is a healthier America.

    Thank God for inflation!!!!

  • Zak

    I think cheering higher gas prices without mitigating them for the poor fails to practice solidarity. As individuals we should contribute more to charities that help the poor with basic staples like food. As a society, we should help them through things like EITC or a payroll tax exemption for the first few thousand dollars of income (and we should expand alternate forms of transportation like public transit in places like cities where its feasible).

  • Katerina

    Charities like “Meals on Wheels” that provide meals to senior citizens are suffering a lot due to high gas prices as well as the poor, of course, who are the most affected, so there are high prices paid on the human side as well. I think there are good side effects as well as bad ones to the high fuel prices. The sad thing is that this country is not ready (especially here in the South) to face the high fuel prices. People like us in Houston HAVE TO drive to work. There is no way around it. Drive to the grocery store, gym, friends’ houses, etc. I wouldn’t mind if gas were $11/gal as it is apparently in the UK right now according to my British friend, but they can take mass transportation anyway: we can’t.

  • Right on jpf. Let’s be grateful for the mortgage crisis too. Positive side effects of that include efficient living arrangements like two to three families living under one roof, or better yet, people living in cars instead of driving them. Now we just need to figure out a way to efficiently tax parking spaces. We’ll put these ingrates back in their place yet.

  • Zak,

    did you know that the majority of the people in this country pay no federal taxes? (51%)

    But you’re right to suggest we should give poor people a break on the state level too. I don’t know the details for each state, but I bet something like you describe is already in place.

  • blackadderiv

    As a society, we should help them through things like EITC or a payroll tax exemption for the first few thousand dollars of income (and we should expand alternate forms of transportation like public transit in places like cities where its feasible).

    I would agree as to the EITC and possibly the payroll tax. Money spent on public transit is generally wasted, however.

    Also, the title of the post is somewhat tongue in cheek. Like JH, I would also prefer lower gas prices.

  • Why would you favor subsidizing a system more costly to the poor, automotive transport, rather than subsidizing a capital infrastructure (public transit) that the poor can afford to use? The latter allows the poor to act more deterministically in best allocating goods like housing.

  • Morning’s Minion

    One of the reasons the US contributes more than its fair share of emissions into the environment is the car culture. It has to change, and it will change. The longer we wait, to worse it will be. Places like Houston need to start investing in public transport right now. Yes, it will be costly, but nothing a good dose of military spending reduction would not pay for!

  • Places like Houston need to start investing in public transport right now.

    The city is already buying more buses for people who do the Park & Ride and ride the HOV lane on the bus…BUT they are nowhere near building a rail especially now that they have expanded I-10 and will be the WIDEST freeway in the country with HOV lanes, a tollway in the center and another 20 lanes (or so). It’s so ridiculous. Instead of thinking ahead and building rails and trains, they have another plan to build a major tollway across the country area of the city… who’s going to ride on it with prices how they are? Ugh… Texas…

  • Kurt

    Charities like “Meals on Wheels” that provide meals to senior citizens

    ‘Meals on Wheels’ isn’t a charity. it is another liberal Democrat taxapyer funded social welfare giveaway program destroying our nation when we should be telling these seniors to ‘get a job’ 🙂

  • Lock people in at home = no traffic fatalities.

    People who advocate high gas prices should not cross the road when I’m in my Pilot. Social engineers should be drawn and quartered as a matter of principle. Public transportation=herd. Car=individual. Of course, some here prefer the herd. I recommend China, North Korea, etc. Of course, I am a selective philanthropist, ie I only want to be in the presence of people I choose to be in the presence of. I would favor that those who drive below the speed limit and those who go 20% + above it take the bus though.

  • Katerina

    I think Meals on Wheels is a non-profit, so I’m not sure… I don’t think it’s a charity though

  • Andrew

    Regarding this topic, there’s a real proposal out there to use taxation to prevent gas prices from getting too low:

    http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/08_31/b4094000658012.htm?campaign_id=rss_daily

    And Gerald, I’m not completely averse to driving below the speed limit if it gets me better mileage on my Highlander Hybrid. I think I’m an even match for your Pilot in it, too. 🙂

  • Yes but do you have Sidewinders ? 😛
    In Austria, the speed limit is something like 85mph, so in reality 90-95.