Dan Gillmor ponders whether recent gasoline price increases are price gouging or the marketplace:

There’s also a lot of talk about price gouging. One of the people talking this way is California’s attorney general, who’s investigating.

Well, there’s another way to describe this behavior. It’s called charging what the market will bear.

And it’s the one thing that — despite any scheming that may be going on in the energy industry — will prevent us from seeing long gas lines in the next several weeks and months.

This is basic supply and demand. The latter is high. The former is constrained.

Although there is probably some gouging going on, especially in the hurricane ravaged areas of the south, I tend to agree with Dan on this in that additional state regulation is probably not the best answer. For the most part, this is a natural market reaction and we should probably let the market seek its own price. The recent price increases are likely to subside as the distribution infrastructure around the Gulf is repaired. However, lower prices will be a temporary situation, in the long term prices will continue to increase.

Unfortunately, higher fuel prices are going to affect many people adversely who are deeply dependent on fuel that they simply can no longer afford. Doing without is not an option for most in this country since driving several miles to just about anything is the norm. In the short term, those who can’t afford the price increases will probably plunge deeper into consumer debt as they finance their fuel consumption with high interest funds from credit cards. As this happens, people will become more and more infuriated and begin to look for someone to blame and/or somewhere to point the finger.

Regardless of where the finger is pointed now or in the future, I think it is time for ALL of us to consider ways we can conserve energy and reduce waste in any way we can. Whether we drive a car regularly or not, we are all dependent on oil and other non-renewable energy sources in one way or another. So, we are all in this together. Even the smallest of personal actions can have a big impact when we all act together.

Here are some ideas for conserving energy in no particular order. Some can be done in the short term, but their impact will really be felt in the longer term, especially if more people start thinking about these things:

  • If you own a car, try to find alternatives to driving when you can. Walking or riding a bicycle are both viable (and enjoyable) alternatives in many cases. If you must drive, try to car pool and drive efficiently.
  • If you are driving a gas guzzler, think about trading down to something more fuel efficient. If you are in the market for a new vehicle, look for fuel efficiency. If you want to be somewhat radical: Will a motorcycle fit your needs? Even more radical: Can you ditch your car altogether, maybe you can relocate to somewhere where you don’t need a car. If you only need a car once in a while, think about something like zipcar or Flexcar.
  • See if you can purchase Green Power for your home or office.
  • Take taxis only when you need to, get there under your own power or with public transit if you can.
  • Turn things off (lights, computers, radios, televisions) when you are not using them and adjust your thermostat. more at ConEd
  • When purchasing new electrical devices, look for the Energy Star label.

What are some of the things you do to conserve energy?

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