In November of 2010, American drivers spent nearly $32 billion on gasoline. Every 25 cent jump in the price of gas siphons $90 million a day away from the recovering American economy. Because we have few choices but to commute to work in private cars, we are trapped by high gas prices.
The energy trap is particularly hard on American households. The average family of four making $50,000 a year spends nearly $8000 a year on their cars, maintenance, and fuel combined--more than they pay for taxes or medical care. (Those numbers are from the Department of Commerce. Many families actually spend more on getting around.)
When the price of gasoline rises, many of these families find that they're trapped: They have to spend even more money on gasoline and cut other necessities, because they can't cut back on gas. For one thing, many families at this income bracket can't choose to move or change jobs to reduce the miles they commute. Some families even have three or more part time jobs, which require a lot of driving for less income. At the same time, they can't buy a more fuel efficient car because it's difficult to get credit and often the gas guzzlers are the cheaper used cars.
And while many American families have experienced the Energy Trap firsthand over the past few years, it hasn't been officially studied, or documented by journalists. The EnergyTrap.org website will present the results of an economic study of the impact of the Trap on the US economy over time, as well as on American families. You can also find reporting on gasoline prices, how middle class families commute, and communities and places that are figuring out solutions to the Energy Trap. Most importantly, you can help us by telling us about your commute, your car, and your thoughts about ending the Energy Trap.
The point of EnergyTrap.org is to understand the problem and propose solutions that put money back in people's pockets. For example, companies and communities can work together to make it easier for workers to get to and from work without using their cars. In one rural/suburban office park in California 10,000 out of 30,000 workers leave their cars at home: Some of their families get by with just one car and have reported saving more than $5000 a year. Another option would be to offer very low cost credit for families that need to replace two gas guzzlers with one very fuel efficient American made car. There are many ways to spring the EnergyTrap, first we need to recognize how much it's cramping both family budgets and the economy at large. Figuring out new ways to get people to work will leave more money in their pockets, reduce traffic jams, pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions, while allowing Americans to CHOOSE how much we spend for gas.