Can High Gas Prices Translate to Cleaner Air?

Dennis Faas's picture

I bet Al Gore likes it when we have to shell out more dough to fill our gas tanks. Indeed, there's a good chance any environmentalist appreciates high fuel costs, especially now that a recent study is reporting that skyrocketing energy costs can limit greenhouse gases.

Unfortunately, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) study can't find a good side for everything. Sure, the environment is going to benefit if we all try to avoid paying high fuel prices by carpooling, taking public transit, or heck, a bicycle to work, but the general trend is not good. In fact, the MIT researchers have found that overall emissions from the United States are bound to grow faster in the next fifty years than the previous fifty.

It seems even with corporate restrictions, the sheer number of polluters is increasing in our modern world. According to MIT professor emeritus Richard Echkaus, changing our fate may mean changing society as a whole. "If you want to have less energy use from fossil fuels and less carbon emissions, society is going to have to pay for it," Eckhaus said. (Source:

Rather than attack the average commuter, Eckhaus believes the responsibility for such change falls on government. Without spending billions of dollars to force a shift in the business world, the melting of the arctic and the rising of global sea levels are just a pair of inevitable consequences.

It's a damning statement and undoubtedly a tough pill to swallow for America's industrial core. A general trend towards a service-oriented economy from the post-war industrial boom has helped the environment. So too have certain measures taken by the industrial community, including the steel industry's abandonment of coal power in favor of electric furnaces.

Unfortunately, the environmental savings may come up short. According to Eckhaus, steel makers today "use less coal, and that makes it appear more efficient, but that's not evidence of a technological change that saves energy."

It seems something more radical is needed than just the initiative of one industry. Unfortunately, the MIT researchers haven't themselves decided upon a solution, merely barking that there's no reason to believe technology "has the potential for reducing energy use while meeting the tests of economics." (Source:

So, it seems even though Al Gore may in fact be pleased with high fuel prices, he's probably not so happy about the reality behind energy costs: at the end of the day, we pay the price regardless.

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