Americans are becoming too complacent about high and rising gasoline prices.
I was talking over the issue with a convenience store clerk the other day. She thought $2.50 would be a "fair" price. I suggested more like $2. She considered that a little too low.
She's not alone.
"Asked to name a fair price for a gallon of gasoline, for the first time most volunteered $2 and up, and not less than $2," Associated Press pollsters reported last week.
They should have polled in Bedford County. Several others I asked said a fair price would be around $1. One mentioned Venezuela, where gas cost 14 cents per gallon last week.
No wonder. The oil industry in Venezuela, one of the world's largest producers, is government-controlled.
Last year Congress took Big Oil to task over gas prices. Where are they this year?
I can see both sides of the issue. Last Memorial Day I traded a 5-year-old, 6-cylinder Ford Escape, itself a relatively gas-efficient SUV, for a new 4-cylinder Honda CR-V.
With gas prices at near-record highs then, I was thinking "better gas mileage" but wanted to stay in an SUV.
But I wondered if I'd really be satisfied with a somewhat less-powerful vehicle.
Of course, gas prices fell substantially after my purchase. It's the Dave Theory in action: If I wash my vehicle, it rains within hours; or a flock of leaky birds passes overhead; or if I've waited for a phone call for an hour and I leave my desk for five minutes, here comes the call.
A year and a Congressional inquiry later, high gas prices are back. This time, fewer people seem to be complaining.
Owners of large SUVs who fill up once a week or so are spending probably $2,500 a year on gas. Taken in perspective, that's a lot of money.
Those of us with smaller vehicles are feeling the heat as well.
My "fuel-efficient" SUV now takes well over $30 to fill up. Sarcastically speaking, we once thought that was high. Those who favor large SUVs should especially be complaining.
I'm not unhappy with the CR-V but find it sort of blah. I find myself looking at Chevrolet Tahoes and Ford Explorers and those horse trailer-pulling supersized trucks that I don't need but just want. Apparently much of America agrees.
Then I look at gas prices and think again.
One of life's truisms is that prices always rise, although oil prices seem to rise and fall like the tide. But these days salaries aren't rising with prices. When prices rise and income doesn't, sooner or later consumer spending declines -- even in a credit card-based world.
And that's when Big Oil feels a little heat.
I'd say a "fair" price allows gas companies a reasonable profit, gives convenience store owners a few extra bucks but doesn't gouge consumers.
Unfortunately, Big Oil's too arrogant and/or greedy to get the message -- if they even hear it.
But if enough Americans speak out, there's always that chance of being heard.
It's time to talk. And the T-G's editorial page is the perfect place to do so.