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High gas prices should drive change

Taking a bold stand against high gas prices sounds like a strange tack for a community newspaper in western Colorado to take, even in mineral-rich Garfield County.After all, gas prices often start in the hands of producers halfway across the world before refining, shipping and distributing the oil exacts the human and financial toll that the rising prices at the pump reflect.The price of gas has risen nearly 40 cents per gallon more than last year. Because it takes time for the price at the pump to catch up to the price of crude oil, it’s still rising and could hit $3 per gallon by summer.Nobody’s holding any economic hole card that will stop prices from rising, or even affect Garfield County less than the rest of the area. However, with that in mind, you have options to offset the effects that higher prices will have.Maybe the most disturbing trend is the fact that not even the powerful economic incentive of skyrocketing gas prices affects people’s driving habits, yet that’s one slice of the economy over which each consumer has control.Vacationers don’t cancel trips they planned before the prices at the pump went up. The latter proposition is both good news and bad news for the tourist-based economy in Glenwood Springs and Aspen – good news because the tourists likely still will come and spend money here, bad news because they’ll have less money to spend on the other parts of their vacation. A representative of the AAA likened the difference to gas prices to a family on a summer vacation skipping ice cream one night of the trip – a reasonable exchange unless, say, you happen to be KaleidoScoops or the Marble Slab Creamery.Also under each consumer’s control are the more ingrained driving habits. Gas prices typically rise in the spring – along with temperatures – which could signal commuters it’s time to start thinking about alternative ways to get to work – carpooling, public transportation, or even walking or cycling – when the weather doesn’t prove such a disincentive. Local and regional transportation agencies provide a number of options to get commuters to work and even reward them for exploring alternatives.If we don’t come to two realizations on our own, rising gas prices eventually will bring us to the epiphany: We might be out of easy solutions for driving down gas prices by providing lots of cheap gas quickly, and while we can’t affect the supply of gas, we can change our driving habits. In the short run, that will offset the effects of rising prices while changing our demand for gas in the long run so that one day we again have our gas – and our ice cream, too.


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