FOR THE WEEK OF SEP. 05, 2005
Soaring gas prices will affect you, too
Have your students track prices advertised in newspapers for the sale of gas-guzzling SUVs and contrast them with prices advertised for compact cars. Are Americans changing their buying habits?
Ask your students to track prices advertised in newspapers for air travel. For example, how much are prices rising for family vacation packages to Disney World in Orlando, Fla.?
Assign the students to scour newspapers for stories about people who develop innovative ways to trim their energy expenses.
Americans can expect gasoline prices to remain above $3 a gallon for the rest of the year, analysts say.
Eight Gulf of Mexico refineries continue to struggle to resume normal operations in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and that can only be bad news for motorists. Some governors are responding by lifting state gasoline taxes to ease the burden on consumers.
Driving is not the only concern. Airline passengers are sure to feel the effect. Northwest, for example, already dealing with a strike, believes the post-storm crisis, may hasten bankruptcy. And other airlines are grappling with strategies to deal with skyrocketing fuel costs. They are expected to increase ticket prices and decrease the number of flights they offer.
Gasoline is hardly the only concern. Not only does the Gulf provide 25 percent of the nation's crude oil, it also supplies 20 percent of U.S. natural gas supplies. So, with winter not so far away, Americans also face sharply higher heating fuel costs.
Overlooked crisis? Katrina's devastation has renewed concerns about the nation's prolonged neglect of the oil refinery industry. No new refinery has been built in this country since 1976. What prevents the industry from opening new refineries?
How serious is the shortage? Over the past 25 years, the number of working U.S. refineries has plummeted by more then half to 149 such facilities. What affect does that have on our capability to keep up with demand?
Make more or use less? Refinery capacity has declined by 10 percent. That means that only 17 million barrels a day are being produced now. Domestic oil consumption overall -- not just of gasoline -- is 20 million barrels a day. If we can't make as much as we use, what are our alternatives?
Forced conservation? At the same time, gasoline consumption has boomed, climbing by 45 percent. What changes can the country make to reduce consumption? Are higher prices a good way to reduce consumption?
Threat to the economy? Higher gas prices affect the delivery of a lot of commodities. It costs more to deliver goods to stores. It costs more to get materials to the factories to make the goods. Many products, such as plastics, are manufactured petroleum products. With this in mind, make a list of the items you think will be most quickly affected by continued high gas prices.
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