Is it accident or design that the 2008 US presidential election has suddenly become about gasoline prices?
It goes below the presidential race as well. Formerly environmentally sensitive candidate Jeb Bradley is now pledging to pillage the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as much as it takes if voters will please, just please, put him back in office in place of Democrat Carol Shea-Porter. I'm sure that's just one story among many.
Fuel price hysteria has taken over the news headlines, displacing health care, global warming and even the War on Terror.
Granted, fuel prices drive everything else in the economy. If you can't afford to get goods to market, if you can't afford the energy necessary even to produce them, you can't stay in business. You certainly can't afford a massively self-indulgent consumer economy. If you lose your home and can't afford food, your health probably suffers, but you have a more immediate concern with shelter and your next meal.
When things are good, many people tend to accept that level of prosperity and draw the curve upward to even greater good times. On the flip side, when the trend turns downward, fear sets in too late to inspire sensible behavior that would prevent the drop, but well before conditions really would require the drastic sacrifice of personal and planetary health just for one more chance at the high life.
The one thing no one advocates is boring old moderation. Our problems and our solutions have to be EXTREEEEEEME and RADICULLLLL! And mostly over-hyped bullshit that goes off with a flash and a bang and lapses into nothing.
Getting people to fixate on energy prices keeps them from focusing on more complicated issues like health care financing and well-planned, sustainable human endeavors. Give them cheap gas at the right time and you can slide by the rest of it, at least for a while. The greatest thing is, everyone can get behind it, unlike a war. You can only keep people terrorized about terrorism for so long, but you can always scare them with high gas prices.