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Editorial: Low Gas Prices Shouldn't Halt Energy Progress

This story was written by Editorial Board, Daily Illini

According to the Department of Energy, the last time the average price for a gallon of regular gasoline was less than $2 was March of 2005, a time when most of today's senior class was still in high school.

Now that gas prices are poised to dip under $1.80 a gallon on Green Street, students have a lot to be cheery about this holiday season. Unfortunately, it probably won't last.

Prices are so low because the demand for gas has fallen considerably in the past few months. That's due in large part to the massive upheaval in the global economy, which doesn't look to get better anytime soon.

People started driving less this summer when gas soared to more than $4 a gallon.

Exactly how much of that decline can be attributed to people deciding driving was just too expensive or that fewer people have jobs to drive to is unclear. But the results are clear: We can change our habits when we want to.

Sales of large trucks and SUVs have cratered this year due in large part to their terrible fuel efficiency while the markets for smaller cars and hybrids have remained strong. Carpooling has also been on the rise. Major metropolitan areas have also seen big increases in bus and subway ridership.

Just because gas prices have fallen back to earth is no reason to return to practices that make this country dependent on oil-rich countries that can hold our economy hostage. It's important to continue pursuing efforts that will allow us to become more efficient with the energy we do have.

If you're someone who's adjusted your lifestyle to cope with high gas prices, you should ask yourself if you've been better off. Perhaps you've enjoyed walking, riding a bike or taking the bus to work instead of driving yourself. Or maybe you've decided now's the time to get rid of that gas-guzzler.

Please don't reconsider.

While it is more affordable to drive now, it likely won't be in the future. In response to falling prices, OPEC is expected to cut worldwide production, something that will drive prices up again. Those countries are betting we won't shake our addiction to cheap gas.

We should prove them wrong by sticking to what's working now, no matter what prices do - driving less, driving more fuel-efficient cars and using more public transportation. It will make the transition off fossil fuels to whatever's next that much less painful in the decades to come.

Our planet and our pocketbooks will thank us.

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