Start of Driving Season Pumps Up Concerns

By Fahey, Jonathan | Telegraph - Herald (Dubuque), May 28, 2012 | Go to article overview

Start of Driving Season Pumps Up Concerns


Fahey, Jonathan, Telegraph - Herald (Dubuque)


NEW YORK - It's Memorial Day weekend, and our national obsession with the price of gasoline is in focus once again.

We'll spend a little less at the pump than a few weeks ago, but that won't stop us from muttering to ourselves, griping to friends and pointing fingers in many directions.

Our rants about gasoline and the oil industry might not always be based on facts, but one thing is undeniable: Americans are obsessed with the price of gasoline. More than any other good or service we buy.

In the language of economists, the price of gasoline is "salient." That means it sticks in our brains. Here's why:

We're reminded of the price every time we pass a gas station and see those huge, numbered signs. We buy gas every week, unlike bills we pay monthly or a couple times a year. Milk is $4 per gallon, but we buy only one. When we fill up with gas, we spend $50 or more.

And the biggest frustration, which comes into focus as the numbers spin ever higher at the pump: There is no alternative.

"The oil companies have cornered the market and they are squeezing us for everything we have," says Bob Simpson, 62, of Lodi, N.J., who pays close to $60 to fill up his Ford Escape.

Cheap gas makes the wide open spaces of America seem full of possibility and adventure. When it's expensive, we think twice before setting out. …

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