If you're a Treehugger, reader then you already know that we're totally underpaying for our gasoline here in the U.S. Yeah, it's painful when those gas prices rise, but the true cost of extracting, transporting, refining and burning oil is much more than $4 a gallon. The Center for Investigative Reporting has a nice animation that explains why this is. And it presents us with a thorny problem: Thanks to our insistence on underestimating the true cost of gas -- European gas prices do a bit better of a job reflecting the true costs thanks to steeper taxes -- many of our societies and economies have developed in such a way that they're now stubbornly dependent on low gas prices. Yet we need to start transitioning away from oil-dependence asap.
Predominantly rural states are especially vulnerable to any rise in gas prices. So, as it becomes clearer that rising prices will be the norm some innovative thinking will be required to begin transforming such car-dependent places -- lest the exurbs, suburbs, and rural townships erode into slums after oil prices make it too expensive to leave (that's one expert's grim prediction, anyway).
Bus rapid transit, high speed rail, or even conventional rail could be used to offer transportation and shipping alternatives. Initiatives could be made to lure more people to cities. Whatever the solution, something has to happen: we've been underestimating the price of gas for too long -- and reality is about to catch up.