As of mid-June, gas prices across the U.S. had decreased ahead of the start of summer, keeping with the trends of the past few years. The national average for unleaded fuel remains at around $2.40 per gallon, which is only slightly higher than last year’s average of around $2.30.
Historically, gas prices have spiked on the eve of summer, remaining around $3.50 per gallon from 2011 to 2013. However, over the past 18 months or so, prices have remained roughly a dollar cheaper than that number, on average.
According to many climate scientists, though, gas really shouldn’t be considered “cheap” at any price.
In 2016, alone, the U.S. used about 19.63 million barrels of oil per day, making us the largest oil consumer on the planet. As is widely known and accepted by a variety of climate scientists, the emissions and byproducts from variants of petroleum products include carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides—all of which have been proven to be exceptionally hazardous to human health.
In addition to the costs to overall bodily health, the production and consumption of oil can also have a direct effect on a variety of land and marine habitats. This is largely due to the extensive toll that drilling techniques have taken on the locations from which companies are looking to extract the valuable substance.
Not only do conventional drilling techniques damage a plethora of ecosystems, but fracking, “the process of drilling down into the earth before a high-pressure water mixture is directed at the rock to release gas inside,” according to the BBC, uses a huge deal of water, as well as pollutes the groundwater around the drilling site with potentially carcinogenic chemicals. Despite the negative effects, this technique has become more and more commonly-used due to the increase in demand for oil over the past several years, as well the depletion of traditionally-used sources for drilling.
So how does one weigh the costs of increased oil drilling and consumption with the benefits of lower prices for consumers?
Though it is unclear how the recent trends of decreasing prices during the hottest times of the year will affect the environment in the long run, one thing is for certain: summer travelers are expected to be out in full-force, reaping the benefits of an increasingly limited—and damaging—resource.
Top photo by Pixabay, CC0
Natalie Wickstrom is a freelance writer based in Athens, Georgia. She most likely wrote this piece to the tune of a movie score whilst chewing gum.