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

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

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs