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Don’t Panic at the Pump

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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Sometimes energy issues aren’t partisan, but are still poorly understood. According to the Spring 2014 UT Energy Poll, 84 percent of Americans say they are concerned about the cost of gasoline, including 83 percent of Democrats and 84 percent of Republicans. Nice to see something we can agree on.

And it’s true that prices are high today compared to the past… I remember when it was less than $1 per gallon of gasoline when I was in high school in the mid-1990s, which doesn’t seem terribly long ago. Yesterday I paid about $65 to fill up my tank. Times have changed.

Still, we really shouldn’t complain too much about the cost of gas if we’re living in the United States. Consider this data from IEA:

U.S. gas taxes are among the lowest in the world (h/t Michael Webber). I was reminded of this repeatedly as I was traveling through Europe and the topic continues to come up in conversations with friends abroad.

Sure we’re paying a lot more than we used to at the pump, but let’s keep things in perspective as we work toward improving energy efficiency while developing alternatives so we can become less dependent on fossil fuels globally.

Sheril Kirshenbaum About the Author: Sheril Kirshenbaum is Director of The Energy Poll at The University of Texas at Austin where she works to enhance public understanding of energy issues and improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Follow on Twitter @Sheril_.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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