Commentary: Two sides to cheap gas

This editorial appeared in The (Tacoma) News Tribune.

The recent plunge in gas prices has the feeling of a return to normalcy. It’s anything but.

Prices have actually cracked the $2-a-gallon mark at a few South Sound gas stations; they’re well below that in some parts of the Midwest. Spotting a "1" in first place on the big placards – as in "Regular: $1.99" – feels like a trip down memory road. All’s right with the world again, if only at the pump.

The price drop may be unprecedented. Just a few months ago, a gallon went for well over $4 – roughly twice as much as today's cost.

It's having three spectacularly good effects.

Many Americans of modest means had been nearly priced out of the vehicles they needed for work and essential errands. Some who'd lost their jobs couldn't afford the gas needed to look for new ones. Cheaper gas is a godsend to the poor.

The dramatic fall is also the functional equivalent of a major stimulus package. With the economy faltering, consumers now have more discretionary cash in their pockets. It’s got to help.

Another sweet side effect: The underlying collapse of petroleum prices is hurting the bad guys. For some perverse reason, dictatorships and Middle Eastern monarchies are sitting on top of most of the world's oil reserves. Their income depends on energy sales.

Several of the dictatorships – Iran, Venezuela, Russia – are chronic troublemakers. It's nice to see them forced to cut their mischief budgets.

To read the complete editorial, visit The (Tacoma) News Tribune.