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Remember the expensive lesson

Nov., 17, 2008

by Lynda Jensen

I know that gas prices have dropped down to what I would call reasonable levels. I thought that it would be interesting to post what the gas prices are for a gallon of regular unleaded fuel in the area:

Area gas prices as of Friday:
Buffalo $1.95/gal of reg.
Waverly $1.96
Dassel $1.92
Cokato $1.92
Howard Lake $1.92
Winsted $1.93
Montrose $1.92
Lester Prairie $1.92

Even though these prices are the best we’ve seen in a very long time, let’s not forget the expensive lesson that we’ve just been taught.

Due to our collective addiction to oil and gas, our country has been in the grip of foreign countries that hate us (or really don’t like us) for decades. We send them regular payments in the form of oil purchases on a regular basis. Who knows what it’s funding?

The demand has gone down, or so we’ve been told. It’s a complicated issue, but even a fool can follow the record profits of the oil companies, and other places that our dollars end up. The unsavory money trail is easy to follow and none of it seems to be good news for average taxpayers.

Throw into the mix the auto makers who have offered models with better gas mileage in Europe for years, but not the United States. For some reason, Americans have been offered vehicles with lower gas mileage and less fuel efficiency all this time, and the “choice” if you will, has not been offered.

If you argue that consumers in a free enterprise system should determine what models the car makers offer, then I ask why we have been given the choice of bad or worse when it comes to gas mileage for so long – and especially the times that we’ve needed better?

Apparently, Americans have deep pockets and are dumb enough to buy big cars with low gas mileage, when that is the lion’s share of what’s offered. Surely even the buyer with a big appetite for fuel consumption would choose a model that had better gas mileage if given some kind of choice.

The dire situation with gas and oil has been that way for three or four years now. Think back to other times in our nation’s history when we’ve gotten into trouble with high prices from oil and gas. This isn’t the first time.

If we do bail out car companies with taxpayer dollars, which seems likely and imminent, then I would expect that car makers would start to offer hyrid cars, and not rush to their own demise by continuing to ignore the need for “smarter” fuel efficient cars, which we’ve needed for so long.

We need more sophisticated solutions than this. This problem is bigger than what the traditional private market system normally cures.

Whatever happens in the next several months, I am hopeful that alternative energy in whatever workable form can be found, and that our country has the leadership on both sides of the fence to get us out of this long-term scrape.