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Editorial: Let the gas prices increase

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | SEPTEMBER 21, 2012 6:30 AM

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Gas prices have been creeping toward $4 a gallon, the highest they have been in Iowa, and they are at the highest-ever September level nationally, according to AAA.

Gas prices have risen in recent years, and that often causes political turmoil as well as financial panics and economic recessions.

This time, however, Iowans should not interpret these rising gas prices as a catalyst for chaos; they rather should welcome the rising prices as an opportunity to improve energy efficiency and invest in wind energy.

The International Energy Agency, for example, predicts that, internationally, developed nations including the United States have the resources to cut vehicles’ fuel needs in half over the next 20 years.

Increased gas costs would incentivize research and development of vehicles that need half as much fuel, which would improve our economy and our environment.

Drivers will be pushed to retire their old cars (in the United States cars are an average of nearly 11 years old and have a fuel economy of approximately 20 miles per gallon) in exchange for energy-efficient models.

The increase in gas prices would allow for innovations and manufacturing initiatives, which could actually spark the economy. We needn’t allow rising gas prices to cause fear; instead, we should simply respond as a free market would: by supporting competition of fuel alternatives.

One perfect example of competition that produces a series of positive net gains for Iowans is wind energy, which can fuel all electronic types.

Wind energy — though often seen as a limited-use energy — can be stored in batteries through electrical means. This can, in turn, power nearly anything that runs on electricity, including hybrid and electric cars.

Wind energy is especially beneficial to Iowans, and it employs between 6,000 to 7,000 people this year. In Pocahontas County alone, wind energy has contributed $23.5 million in additional assessed value. Furthermore, wind energy has provided the county with morethan $3 million in tax revenue during the past three years. Furthermore, wind energy works. For example, Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids built a wind turbine to help power the school last year, and it has since been able to sell $300,000 worth of power to Alliant Energy.

Many have wondered if wind energy could ever truly compete with oil and gas, but according to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States, wind could sustain half of all the world’s fuel needs by 2030. That’s not just the fuel needs of the United States, that is half of all the power in the world. All we need to do is build wind turbines, rather than drill for oil beneath the earth. Some may argue that even if the science is there, the infrastructure is not. Of course, there would need to be a large number of infrastructural changes to make those things, which now rely on crude-oil derivatives to instead be powered by wind energy, but it is doable. One nation Norway, has accomplished many of these feats.

In a free-market system, a product that is too expensive and results in tremendous negative externalities becomes obsolete because of competition. It may be a long time before we can be an oil-free state, but an oil-reduced state is not that far off. Iowans could let the gas prices rise and initiate other lasting alternatives.


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