News / USA

Americans Take Oil Price Rise in Stride, Brace for Higher Prices

Gasoline prices are displayed on a pump at a filling station on the Palisades Interstate Parkway in Orangeburg, New York, March 7, 2011
Gasoline prices are displayed on a pump at a filling station on the Palisades Interstate Parkway in Orangeburg, New York, March 7, 2011

Multimedia

TEXT SIZE - +
Greg Flakus

Turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa in the past few months has driven the price of oil on the world market to more than $100 a barrel, causing a spike in fuel prices in the United States that is putting a crimp in transportation budgets for families and businesses alike. For the moment anyway, people are taking it in stride.

Filling up at the gasoline pump has become much more expensive in recent weeks as the sharp rise in crude oil prices comes down to the ordinary consumer.

Most people, including this woman, are not happy about it. “I am a college student and I have to drive 45 minutes to college, so it [is terrible].”

Many people are making adjustments, driving less or using cars with better fuel economy if they have that option. Richard, who owns a gas-guzzling truck, said he may start leaving it at home more often.

“I do work a ways from where I live, so I will have to drive the other car. We have a smaller car, a Ford Fusion, and that gets good gas mileage.”

Most U.S. drivers are reacting calmly to the rise in fuel prices, partly because prices have not yet gone as high as they were in 2008, when oil went to more than $147 a barrel.

Even a larger spike in prices would probably not have much impact on U.S. fuel consumption, according to Mahmoud El-Gamal, chairman of the Economics Department at Rice University. “It would take a long time of very high prices for people to change their lifestyles and for cities to be structured around those new lifestyles.”

The problem is that most U.S. cities, like Houston, are spread out over a large area and people commute to work or school from distant suburbs. El-Gamal said changing the infrastructure and the attitudes of people who choose to live far from their place of work is difficult and costly.

“We are seeing some urbanization trends, where the sub-urbanization that we observed over the last few decades is being reversed, but it is being reversed very, very slowly.”

The most immediate cause of the rise in oil prices is unrest in Libya and other Middle East oil-producing nations.

El-Gamal said any disruption, anywhere, affects the price of oil worldwide. “The United States does not actually import much oil from the Middle East; most of our oil would be from Canada, but still, because it is a global market, total supply and total demand will determine prices.”

What worries El-Gamal is not so much the unrest in Libya, but the strife in Bahrain, which sits near the major shipping routes out of the oil-rich Persian Gulf. “Disruption of oil flow out of the Persian Gulf could be catastrophic, then you would be talking $300 a barrel, not 120.”

Although states like Texas still produce oil, domestic production is far short of demand and the United States imports two thirds of the petroleum it uses.

That means prices at the pump here reflect such things as weakness in the dollar, which is used in international oil pricing, and growing demand for oil in China and India. Turmoil in the Middle East has the most dramatic impact, though, so that even the slightest hint of a supply disruption from the world's richest oil region can cause prices at U.S. gasoline pumps to rise quickly.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid