The Economic Collapse – February 19, 2012
Does it cost you hundreds of dollars just to get to work each month? If it does, you are certainly not alone. There are millions of other Americans in the exact same boat. In recent years, the price of gas in the United States has gotten so outrageous that it has played a major factor in where millions of American families have decided to live and in what kind of vehicles they have decided to purchase. Many Americans that have very long commutes to work end up spending thousands of dollars on gas a year. So when the price of gas starts going up to record levels, people like that really start to feel it. But the price of gas doesn’t just affect those that drive a lot. The truth is that the price of gas impacts each and every one of us. Almost everything that we buy has to be transported, and when the price of gasoline goes up the cost of shipping goods also rises. The U.S. economy has been structured around cheap oil. It was assumed that we would always be able to transport massive quantities of goods over vast distances very inexpensively. Once that paradigm totally breaks down, we are going to be in a huge amount of trouble. For the moment, the big concern is the stress that higher gas prices are going to put on the budgets of ordinary American families. Unfortunately, almost everyone agrees that in the short-term the price of gas is going to go even higher.
When you are on a really tight budget and you are already spending several hundred dollars on gas each month, you certainly do not want to hear that gas prices are going to increase even more.
A lot of Americans are moving or are getting different vehicles just because of these outrageous gas prices. The following comes from a recent Mercury News article….
Katherine Zak, of South San Jose, is searching for an apartment near her new job at Facebook in Palo Alto, partly to cut down the cost of driving. Jeff Benson, of Raymond in the Sierra foothills, typically drives 60,000 to 70,000 miles a year and has traded in his 19 mpg Ford Taurus for a Fusion that gets 33 mpg. And David Thomas says his commute from San Jose to San Francisco is getting so expensive that he and his fiancee are hunting for a house near a BART station in the San Mateo-San Bruno area to shorten his commute and lower his $400-a-month gas bill.
The price of gas is going even higher even though energy consumption is sharply declining in the United States. Just check out the charts in this article by Charles Hugh Smith. Americans are using less gasoline and less energy and yet the price of gas continues to go up.
That is not a good sign.
Certainly any decrease that we are seeing in the U.S. is being more than offset by rising demand in places such as China and India. As emerging economies all over the globe continue to develop this is going to continue to put pressure on gas prices.
So just how bad are gas prices in the U.S. right now?
Just consider the following facts….
-The average price of a gallon of gasoline in the United States is now $3.53.
-The average price of a gallon of gasoline is already higher than $3.70 in Connecticut, Washington D.C. and New York.
-In mid-January 2009, the average price of a gallon of gasoline in the United States was just $1.85.
-The average price of a gallon of gasoline in the United States has risen 25 cents since the beginning of 2012.
-Never before in U.S. history has the price of gasoline been this high so early in the year.
-The Oil Price Information Service is projecting that the price of gas could reach an average of $4.25 a gallon by the end of April.
-The price of oil just keeps going up. The price for West Texas Intermediate is about 19 percent higher than it was one year ago.
-The price of gasoline is also reaching record highs in many areas of Europe as well. For example, the price of diesel fuel in the UK recently set a brand new record.
-In 2011, U.S. households spent a whopping 8.4% of their incomes on gasoline. That percentage has approximately doubled over the past ten years.
But the price of gas is not the only thing making driving much more expensive these days.
All over the country, our politicians have been putting up toll booths. Most of the time these toll booths are going up on roads that have already been paid for.
After paying an outrageous amount for gas and after paying the outrageous tolls on many of these toll roads, many Americans wonder if it is even worth it to get up in the morning and go to work.
Unfortunately, a couple of new bills in Congress right now would reportedly allow even more highways to be made into toll roads.
It is almost as if they want to force us all to stop driving our cars.
America used to be the land of the open road, but that era is rapidly coming to an end.
Another thing that could put upward pressure on the price of gas is the situation in the Middle East.
Iran has already stopped selling oil to companies in the UK and France, and there is the potential that war could erupt in the Middle East at any time.
If war does erupt, or if commercial traffic through the Strait of Hormuz was interrupted for even a brief time, that would send the global price of oil through the roof.
Approximately 20 percent of all oil sold in the world passes through the Strait of Hormuz. If the flow of oil was halted, that would change the global economy almost overnight.
So is there any good news?
Well, there is one thing that would likely bring down the price of gas substantially.
A global recession.
Remember what happened back in 2008.
Just like we are seeing right now, the price of gas really spiked early in that year.
Eventually, the price of oil hit an all-time record of $147 a barrel in mid-2008.
But then the financial crisis struck and the price of oil fell like a rock as you can see from the chart below….
So could that happen again?
There are a ton of other parallels between 2008 and 2012.
In both years, we saw global shipping start to slow down dramatically.
In both years, the U.S. was getting ready to hold a presidential election.
In both years, many economists were warning that a great financial crisis was about to strike.
Back in 2008, the epicenter of the financial crisis was on Wall Street.
This time, the epicenter of the financial crisis will probably be in Europe.
Keep your eye on Europe. A disorderly default by Greece (and potentially even an exit from the eurozone) is looking increasingly likely.
But the problems in Europe are not going to end with Greece. The entire eurozone is going to be greatly shaken by the time this thing is over.
So yes, if we see another major global recession that will be great news for the price of gas, but it will be really bad news for the millions of people that lose their jobs and their homes.
Unfortunately, we live at a time when the world is becoming extremely unstable. The great era of peace and prosperity that we have been enjoying is coming to an end. The global financial system is going to experience a tremendous amount of chaos in the years ahead and that is something we will all need to prepare for.
For now, the price of gas is a major concern for millions upon millions of American families.
Someday, however, we will wish desperately that we could go back to these days.