Gas Prices Are Way Too ... (a) High! (b) Low! (c) Both!

Five-dollar gas is no longer unthinkable. But is expensive gas a good thing for the United States, in the long run? We asked you, in our latest edition of Working it Out, what would be your #1 proposal to influence the price of gas -- in either direction. Here are the best responses we received. Put your own in the comment section and we'll publish the best ones, with credit, this weekend

We need cheap gas now, and expensive gas later

While I recognize this is probably unfeasible, given how things work with the Highway Trust Fund, I'd like to see a federal gas tax holiday tied to a gas tax hike. We don't want gas prices to damage the recovery, and we know we need higher gas prices over time to account for various externalities. The politics still don't work in an era of hyperpartisanship, but I like the idea of the holiday as the carrot to finally raise the gas tax. -- Walt Frick

Higher prices aren't a choice. They're an inevitability.

I am glad somebody wrote this.  Yes, higher prices are the natural outcome of where we are headed and and are probably the only effective mechanism to change behavior at the consumer level, both in commuting and choosing which cars to buy --- good!

It would be better if we had a dollar a gallon gas tax.  I would rather see that than any other revenue increase being discussed.

Eventually we will see electricity prices rise to European levels and that is good.  Look at the horrific state of electricity infrastructure. Most should be buried underground but most over-regulated electricity utilities have no money.  Who will pay, the utility's bond holders who already get pathetic returns?  Who will pay if the "public" utilities boards around the country refuse to allow rate increases?  We have our heads in the sand (or worse places) in this country about how cheaply we should be able to consume energy and we have political harangues attacking oil companies and utilities rather than facing up to reality.  I never heard of Marty Nemko before but he is a breath of fresh air and honesty even daring to discuss all this. -- Jozef_2

Natural gas transit is the answer

Rochester Airports transit buses are all propane run.  They seemed to have normal acceleration and the driver said he could run all day on a tank.  Initiate tax credits for natural gas motors and infrastructure.  -- trythemiddle

Mass transit is the answer

How about reducing demand through mass transit and more efficient vehicles? Keeps money here and out of Saudi pocketbooks as a side benefit. -- LaurelhurstLiberal

Subsidies for the low-income are the answer

It is a good opportunity for the government to subsidize low income and unemployed population for the gasoline price spike. Alternative energy resources shouldn't come at the price of those at the bottom who are struggling in this recession. Govt needs these people's psychological supports. Obama needs them for his re-election. -- Bean Cube

The impact of natural gas

One of the big reasons for the recent hike in U.S. gasoline prices is cheap natural gas. Domestic refiners are benefiting from abundant local supplies of natural gas--largely acquired through fracking and horizontal drilling--to cheaply produce the process heat required to crack crude oil into products like gasoline. They can then export gasoline to countries like Mexico, underselling refiners there who have to pay more for process heat. The resulting squeeze in U.S. supply raises domestic gasoline prices. While natural gas extraction techniques remain controversial, if domestic production can be responsibly maintained (e.g. via more thorough regulation, which will admittedly raise natural gas prices slightly), gasoline prices may remain high, helping spur a U.S. transition to electric vehicles.  Cheap natural gas could in turn spur a move away from coal in the electricity sector, providing potentially cleaner and cheaper source of electricity. Once dwindling supplies of domestic gas result in higher prices, renewables will have likely achieved widespread price parity with traditional sources, leading ultimately to a renewably-powered electricity grid fueling an oil-free transportation system. -- Greg Rucks


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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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