Five dollar gas has a silver lining

(December 28, 2010) Here's a view of the future that is a bit unsettling. But from my chair, it seems entirelly possible.

A former oil company executive predicted in a story on CNNMoney that Americans will be paying $5 a gallon for gasoline by 2012. He admits it's an extreme view, but he believes it for a variety of reasons. Another industry expert says, yes, gas will eventually hit $5, but not by 2012.

It seems with the ever-increasing worldwide oil demand and the penchant of the current administration to decrease drilling at a time that demands increased oil production, the rubber will soon — perhaps sooner than later — meet the road and like the prediction of former Shell Oil president John Hofmeister, gas will hit five bucks in less than two years.

Five dollars would be the breaking point for big pickups and sport utilities — sales would be in the tank as they were a few years ago when gas prices surged above $4.

Even the current spike up above $3 has plunged trade-in values for big vehicles as reported by CNW Marketing. The drop has come so fast that vehicles are selling for 20 percent less than prices currently listed in used car pricing publications.

There is good news, however. Never has the auto industry been so well positioned, offering — or very soon to offer — dozens of excellent choices in fuel-efficient vehicles from hybrids, to plug-in hybrids, to diesels, to gas engine vehicles — even mid-sized family sedans — ranging well over 30 mpg.

Unlike year's past, excellent mileage is now achieved without sacrificing satisfying performance or the creature comforts we have come to expect in our daily transportation.

And if you are still on the fence over hybrids and plug-ins, there is a stream of gas engine compact sedans reaching market that promise 40 mpg or better.

Very few people are anxious for $5-a-gallon pump prices, but never has the public before been offered such a choice of automotive efficiency without sacrificing the performance demanded by drivers and the modern comforts and conveniences of driving life.

— Jim Meachen