Could Gas Prices Be a Blessing in Disguise?

By Curtis K. Shelburne

As I write this column, gasoline prices are rising so rapidly that it would be pretty safe to bet they’ll be a couple or twenty cents higher per gallon by the time I finish writing this than they are as I begin. Where will it end? I don’t know. One good friend told me that an “expert” who this time last year predicted the present prices is predicting $5.00 per gallon gas for this time next year. I surely hope he’s wrong.

And yet . . .

I find myself wondering if increasing gas prices might not become a blessing in disguise. (When Winston Churchill was just receiving early but definitive word that he’d lost the election and been turned out of office at the end of World War II, his wife Clementine said to him, “It may well be a blessing in disguise.” To which Churchill replied, “At the moment it seems quite effectively disguised.”)

I abhor these gas prices. I’m frustrated with our dependence on oil (foreign and otherwise). I can’t tell that $2.65 gas pushes my buggy a bit better than $1.45 gas did a few heartbeats ago. And I’m a tad ticked at folks who make it so hard to build refineries (not to mention nuclear power plants if you’re talking about energy in general) that it’s well nigh impossible for what we have to keep up with what we use. What, pray tell, did they expect?

BUT if we ever get to the point that the price of gas really causes us to re-think and alter our hurried and harried lifestyles, then it really may be a blessing in disguise. (And then we’ll also have an opportunity to show Christian compassion when we do have occasion to drive by and see the poor RV or Hummer owners stopped by the side of the road holding signs:  “Will Work For Gas.”)

I was watching on TV a discussion of this gas situation the other evening. One interviewer asked his “expert” guest, “Well, at least it’s August now. The prices should go down following vacation season, right?”

The expert’s answer indicated to me that even if he knows a lot about gas, he knows more about our society: “That’s the conventional wisdom,” he said, “but the fact is that parents have so over-programmed their children that the difference between gas consumption in summer and the school year is not nearly as much as you might think.” From his tone, he might have been saying, “The sun sets in the west.” He considered the fact of the “over-programming” of our kids-and thus our mad dash as we continually rush hither and yon toward anywhere but home-to be in the same class of factual truth as the basic laws of nature.

Will gas prices force our society to slow down some and find out where home is? Could it get so serious that we might have to stay home some and talk to each other? Or read a book? Or watch a sunset? Or just sit still and think?

Would that be a blessing in disguise? Or just plain scary?