Grumbling Over Gasoline? Game On!

“Too much.”

Ask nearly anyone how much they spend on gas and the answer’s the same. Americans are spending a fortune to fill our tanks these days, and high prices could stall any hopes of economic recovery.

Rural residents are hit especially hard. We often drive further distances than our urban counterparts, and can’t rely on public transportation. The high prices disproportionately hurt the rural community.

We’ve been here before: in June of 2008, gas prices crept past $4 per gallon for the first time, and 25% of polled Americans thought gas prices were the number one problem facing the country.

Yet a recently conducted Gallup survey indicates our attitudes have shifted.

Only 7% said high gas prices were the biggest problem we face as a nation. Respondents were much more likely to say the economy or unemployment are the toughest difficulties we currently face.

We should not expect to solve a “crisis” like higher gas prices with a silver bullet. (Unless you’re Bob Seger.) Economists, politicians, academics and informed-people agree that there isn’t one simple solution. Instead, they advocate for a portfolio of solutions, that vary over time.

In baseball terms, we’re not going to lick this problem with a fence-clearing home run.

We know that the gas issue--like others--sticks around and affects generation after generation of Americans. We also know that it won’t be solved by one generation at one time.

Instead of swinging for the fences, desperate for a game-winning homer, we should focus on small ball--getting people on base, putting runners in scoring position.  We should be doing our part to give the next generation the best chance to win.

As we step up to the plate to tackle high gas prices, our game plan should be easing peoples’ suffering today, without sacrificing the people of tomorrow.

It comes down to our country making a choice: do we want to delude ourselves and be satiated in the short-term, or play smart and ensure America is strong for generations to come?

If you want to spend less on transportation--which is really the heart of the gasoline issue--support overhauling our infrastructure. Support clean transmission development, electric cars, new bio-fuel research, improvements to city-layouts and new designs for refueling stations.

We take our current infrastructure for granted. Before gas stations, before standardized fuel nozzles or a distribution system, our country relied on horses. The horse lobby was powerful, and reluctant to give up its watering troughs, feed supplies, street cleaners and veterinarians to a new, disruptive technology.

Our forebears invested in the future, and we reap the benefits of a streamlined, integrated transportation network. Let’s make sure we don’t let the voices of a few naysayers compromise our children’s future.

Rural residents, farmers, and ranchers who spend fortunes to run their machinery should be pushing Caterpillar and John Deere for more alternative fuel models, like those that run on natural gas or bio-diesel.

As our country uses less gasoline, prices will decrease. So rural stakeholders who don’t want to retrofit or replace their expensive machinery will still benefit from other consumers reducing their oil needs. Supporting clean energy infrastructure will reduce overall costs for everyone.

We’re all in this together, playing on the same team. Our best chance at winning comes from trusting in each other and the future.

Time to play ball.