The bad news first: As of July 15, 2008, the national average for a gallon of unleaded gasoline was $4.11. One year ago, it was $3.05. In 1998, most drivers could fill up their tanks for about 20 bucks at $1.03 a gallon ($1.27 accounting for inflation). The Wall Street Journal recently quoted analysts saying that an oil barrel could cost $200, or $6 a gallon, by year's end.
When gas prices passed the $4-gallon mark this June, some threshold was crossed in our country's collective psyche. For many, it was the threshold between normal annoyance and genuine concern. For others, it was the threshold between minor tweaks to the monthly budget and its complete overhaul.
Then there's the good news: Crossing that threshold saw many Americans stop talking about what they would do should gas prices become unbearable, and take practical steps to lessen their reliance on it.
Those steps are bearing measurable results. The nation's public transportation group reported that 2007 saw the highest ridership of public transit in 50 years. In May, sales for Vespa scooters increased by 106 percent from May of last year; Ford SUV sales dropped 55 percent this June. Bike-shop owners report an increase in bikes being brought out of dusty retirement and in for repairs. The corporate world is catching on: one Chicago-based consultancy found in May that 57 percent of HR execs are doing something (four-day workweeks, carpooling, telecommuting) to trim employees' travel costs.
These changes in how Americans get around should, for the time being, make us smile. And they are ones that many Christians are likewise making — not only for fiscal cuts (or the fact that green is the new black even in the church), but also from the leadership of prominent ...1