Dumbest Thing I Have Read Today

From the department of wishful thinking comes this:

The worst oil shock since the 1970s has put a permanent mark on the
American way of life that even a drop in oil's price below $100 a
barrel won't erase.

Public transportation is in. Hummers are out. Frugality is in. Wastefulness is out....

As prices come falling back to earth, Americans aren't expected to
drop their newfound frugality. The jarring reality of $4-a-gallon
gasoline stirred up an unprecedented level of consumer angst that
experts say will keep people from reverting to extravagant energy use
for years to come - if ever again.

High gas prices prompted calls to lower speed limits to 55 mph in some states and touched off a seemingly endless wave of "Go Green" campaigns.

"I see a permanent shift," said Kit Yarrow, a consumer psychologist
at San Francisco's Golden Gate University who has studied how high oil
prices have affected Americans' buying behavior. "Historically, when
gas prices come down, people use more. But we've learned a lot of new
things during this period and it will be hard to go back to our
gas-guzzling ways."

Really?  I could have sworn people said that in 1972 and again in 1978.  But the SUV and the Hummer were not even invented until after these oil shocks.  He mentions the 55 mph speed limit, but we once had a national speed limit at 55 in the 1970s and we chucked it.  What possible evidence does this guy have, particularly since the recent shock was not nearly as bad as 1972 or 1978.  In fact, you can see that here in this graph of gas price pain:

Gas_prices_2

And, we have not seen the absolute shortages and gas lines we saw in the 1970s.  Usually these weird statements like this published by the AP are the start of some kind of broader political campaign.  The only thing I can guess is that this is the front end of some leftish/Obama polical message that we need to keep slamming on government conservation directives and alt-energy subsidies even as prices fall.

  • CRC

    So the argument is that demand curves slope down ("Historically, when gas prices come down, people use more. But we've learned a lot of new things during this period and it will be hard to go back to our gas-guzzling ways.") but in the future they won't?

  • http://americandigest.org vanderleun

    I'm thinking of recoining an old adage to: "If God did not want them to be idiots, he wouldn't have made the journalists."

  • linearthinker

    "I see a permanent shift," said Kit Yarrow, a consumer psychologist at San Francisco's Golden Gate University who has studied how high oil prices have affected Americans' buying behavior.

    A "permanent shift" on a few months data?

    Clues in above snip:
    "consumer psychologist"
    "San Francisco's Golden Gate University"

    Firesign Theater comes to mind. Waiting for Yoshidad, or someone like him.

  • Frederick Davies

    The words "...a consumer psychologist..." and "...evidence..." should not be used in the same sentence, paragraph or even article, except with a negative in between.

  • http://dullgeek.blogspot.com mjh

    The only thing I can guess is that this is the front end of some leftish/Obama polical message that we need to keep slamming on government conservation directives and alt-energy subsidies even as prices fall.

    I love the logic that says, "Nope, we're never going back to this. So we'd better create some laws to make sure we don't." It seems to me that if the first statement is true, the law is pointless. Or if the law isn't pointless the first statement can't be true.

  • Mesa Econoguy

    "I see a permanent shift," said Kit Yarrow, a consumer psychologist at San Francisco's Golden Gate University who has studied how high oil prices have affected Americans' buying behavior. "Historically, when gas prices come down, people use more. But we've learned a lot of new things during this period and it will be hard to go back to our gas-guzzling ways."

    Dear Kit,

    I see a permanent shift, where people like you, i.e. “morons,” suddenly become irrelevant, particularly when the price of oil drops below $100/bbl, and gas drops to $3/gal.

    I also see a permanent shift where news outlets (The Arizona Republic) which publish your idiotic remarks go out of business.

    Signed,

    I have 2 economics degrees, unlike you Kit

  • http://www.zianet.com/ehusman/weblog/blogger.html Eric H

    "And, we have not seen the absolute shortages and gas lines we saw in the 1970s"

    I thought those were artificial shortages?

  • happyjuggler0

    Eric H beat me to the punch.

    For those who weren't paying attention, or who haven't figured it out yet, properly speaking there were no gas shortages in the 70's, but rather there were shortages at the prices mandated (directly or indirectly) by the government.

    Right now, today as we speak, there is a massive, mind blowing, gob smacking, previously unheard of shortage of oil at $20 per barrel. However there is no shortage of oil at todays market set prices of a bit over $100 per barrel.

    If the government chose to set the price of oil at $80 there would be gas lines and "absolute shortages" of oil all over the US, despite there being the exact amount of oil available worldwide as there was previous to the economically obtuse law that set oil at $80 per barrel.

    Hence there are no lines at gas stations today under market set prices. There are reported "shortages" in states affected by anti-price gouging laws thanks to recent/concurrent hurricanes, however to claim that these are market set prices is profoundly ignorant.

  • Neo

    "We’re going to have a bold energy plan that says that we are going to reduce our dependence on foreign oil by 20 or 30 percent over the course of a decade or two. We are going to ask all citizens to participate in that process, not just government, but each and every one of us are going to have — are going to make commitments in terms of increasing fuel efficiency in our cars and homes, and the government is going to be in partnership with citizens to make that happen.." -- Obama at Columbia

    Interesting that virtually nobody seemed to notice this metric. It's even more detailed than the Obama web site.

    With all the ads from people telling us ... energy independent in 10 years, and the U.S. 70% dependent on foreign oil .. it will be at least 3 or 4 decades to be independent.

    With cries for "energy independence" dating back to before Carter, somehow Obama's plan doesn't seem very bold and it certainly isn't independence any time soon. It may slow the bleeding, but it really underscores the necessity of opting for all energy sources.

  • The other coyote

    You know what's scary?

    I'm old enough to remember - first hand - even/odd gas rationing. I'm guessing that the young pups out there who are trying to make long-term predictions based on a few months of data weren't even born in the "bad old days" of the Arab oil embargos.

    It's so sad to see America's collective attention span demolished by MTV and the 30 second ad spot. Can you imagine anyone in today's US that would attend 19th century debates, or go to town to listen to 18th century speeches? Or attend all day Sabbath services? Lincoln's Gettysburg address would be considered too long by today's standards.

    I must be older than all of the talking heads and "consumer psychologists" put together. Heck, I can even remember back to 1988, when Joe Biden stole that other guy's life and had to quit the presidential race. Has everybody forgotten that, too? Or is it that what passes for a reporter today wasn't even born during that campaign?

  • John David Galt

    No country or even individual will ever "go green" for very long -- because when you come down to it, to "go green" is to be New Socialist Man. Who can't exist. It's against human nature.