So where are environmental groups? Sure, they're talking about the need for new, clean energy supplies, but often in the context of how that will help lower gasoline prices. But why aren't they out there cheering on high gasoline prices?
It makes perfect sense for them to do so. After all, these groups are constantly pushing for energy policies that encourage people to drive less, improve efficiency, seek out alternative energy sources and produce less greenhouse gases. Well, it turns out that higher oil prices are one of the fastest and most efficient ways to achieve those goals.
Just look at what happened after the sharp spike in oil prices in 2008, which pushed gasoline prices at the pump over $4 gallon.
Other reports at the time found more people shopping online, taking public transit, carpooling, vacationing closer to home, telecommuting more and doing other things to cut oil consumption.
More fuel-efficient cars: Numerous reports in 2008 noted the increased sales of smaller, more fuel-efficient cars and the boost in sales to hybrid cars, while sales of gas-guzzling SUVs and trucks plunged. (The combination of less driving and more fuel-efficient cars means less greenhouse gases.)
A better market for alternative energy sources: It's common sense that as the price of oil goes up, alternative sources of energy become more economically competitive, accelerating the transition to non-oil-based energy. Cheap oil, in contrast, is the enemy of this transition.
Environmentalists recognize these benefits. After all, many of the policies they support -- cap and trade, increased taxes on oil companies, hikes in the federal gas tax -- would have the effect of boosting gasoline prices. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency found that the Senate's cap-and-trade greenhouse-gas reduction plan would boost gasoline prices by about $1.40 a gallon over the long term.
Now it's true that higher market-driven gasoline prices translate into bigger oil industry profit, but shouldn't that be seen as a small price to pay for the many environmental benefits higher gasoline prices bring?
Nevertheless, as NPR noted in a story it did a few years ago, the best environmental groups seem to be able to muster is to "quietly welcome" high gas prices.
Of course, openly cheering higher prices wouldn't exactly win these groups a lot of friends. Just look at the guff Energy Secretary Steven Chu is taking today for his 2008 comment that "somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe." Still, whatever happened to having the courage of your convictions?
So come on, greens. Let's hear it loud and proud for higher gas prices.