Rural America

Americans feel the burn of high energy prices

High energy prices are proving a threat to the American way of life as they become an increasingly large share of how Americans spend their incomes. In today’s New York Times, Clifford Krauss writes about the impact of gas prices on rural communities:

Gasoline prices reached a national average of $4 a gallon for the first time over the weekend, adding more strain to motorists across the country.

But the pain is not being felt uniformly. Across broad swaths of the South, Southwest and the upper Great Plains, the combination of low incomes, high gas prices and heavy dependence on pickup trucks and vans is putting an even tighter squeeze on family budgets.

Here in the Mississippi Delta, some farm workers are borrowing money from their bosses so they can fill their tanks and get to work. Some are switching jobs for shorter commutes.

People are giving up meat so they can buy fuel. Gasoline theft is rising. And drivers are running out of gas more often, leaving their cars by the side of the road until they can scrape together gas money.

The disparity between rural America and the rest of the country is a matter of simple home economics. Nationwide, Americans are now spending about 4 percent of their take-home income on gasoline. By contrast, in some counties in the Mississippi Delta, that figure has surpassed 13 percent.

Additionally, a new poll from CNN found that:

As more Americans become resigned to the possibility of paying $5 for a gallon for gas, they are driving less and seriously considering chucking their gas guzzlers, according to a poll released Monday.

These rising costs, along with rising healthcare costs and dropping wages, have the potential to widen gaps in the American economy and radically impact the way Americans live their lives. Reducing gas prices in the short terms is difficult, if not impossible, and there are far more bad ideas about how to do this than there are good ones. John McCain has come back to one of his worst, the gas tax holiday, which is impressive for its overt pandering and lack of foundation in economics. Americans need a sound energy policy and are currently feeling the burn from lacking a forward thinking one for the last eight years.

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