How's this for a lump of coal: $3 a gallon gas

December 17, 2010 12:01:00 PM

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Odds are that Santa''s going to bring us an unwelcome present this Christmas: $3 a gallon gas. 

 

Thursday in Columbus, prices were ranging from $2.81 to $2.99 for a gallon of regular gas, according to gasbuddy.com. There''s no guarantee prices will top $3 by Christmas Day, but no one is predicting prices will plummet during the busy travel holiday, either. 

 

Nationally, the average price per gallon was $2.98 per gallon this week.  

 

The average price was $2.34 a gallon in 2009. Only a year and a half ago, we were wondering if the seemingly-insane high price of $2 a gallon was here to stay. Now, we get nostalgic for that price. (Can you imagine the run on a station that offered gas for less than $2 a gallon today?) 

 

Gas prices rise along with demand, distribution costs, and of course, the profits the oil companies pay themselves. The worldwide demand is driven -- pun intended -- largely by drivers in the U.S., including you and me. 

 

Of course, our love for gas-guzzling cars and trucks doesn''t help. Our roadways are clogged with Suburbans and Tahoes and F-150s. As long as we''re determined to drive more car than we actually need, gas prices will continue to climb. 

 

That said, the climb is inevitable -- the question is how high, how fast. There''s only so much oil in the ground, and we''re using it up. More people around the world, including in rapidly growing countries China and India, have taken up driving. 

 

How high does a gallon of has have to go before we drive less or trade to a smaller car, affecting demand and slowing the tide of higher prices? 

 

Maybe we''ve already hit that mark, at least locally. An informal poll on cdispatch.com a few months ago showed that the vast majority of people have already changed their driving habits, or would do so when prices hit $3 a gallon. (This poll was done back in the good ol'' days, when gas was around $2.70 a gallon.) 

 

Global forces are at play here, and we''re paying for it at the pump. All we can do is our own part. Drive less. Drive a more efficient car.  

 

We''re going to try to be good, because we''d rather have a lump of coal in our stocking than a $3 gallon of gas.