Thursday, October 05, 2006

Hooray for high oil prices?

Some environmentalists are thrilled by the relatively high price of oil. They see it as the only way to wean westerners off their addiction to cars. This view may be well-meaning but myopic. It presupposes that the only people affected by increased petroleum costs are upper middle class suburbanites in rich countries who could easily swap their gas-guzzler for a commuter train token with marginal inconvenience.

In reality, the people most harmed by high oil prices are in the developing world, as this VOA piece explores.

The effect in Senegal, for example, means lower energy generating capacity and thus power cuts. It means higher prices for passengers in public taxis and buses, which are the primary means of transport for most Senegalese. It means higher inflation and slower growth.

So the next time you smile with self-satisfaction about sticking it to SUV owners, just remember that they aren't being harmed anywhere near as much as African city dwellers who already can barely afford to make ends meat.

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