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Is It Time to Start Talking About the “Gas-Price Gap”?

There has been a lot of talk, on this blog and everywhere, about the price of gas. Levitt wrote recently in favor of higher gas taxes. I went on Good Morning America last week to talk about factors that do and do not affect gas prices. (Among the events that matter: the International Olympic Committee’s 2001 meeting in Moscow that awarded the 2008 Summer Games to Beijing; this prompted China to use the Games as a national showcase, spurring a huge construction boom that drove up demand for gas and oil.)

But I think there’s an important piece of this discussion that’s being overlooked. It may be obvious, but still, I don’t hear it being talked about all that much: the gas-price gap. For all the talk about the income gap in this country, the education gap, and roughly a half-million other gaps, the gas-price gap strikes me as more significant than we let on. To a working class family with two jobs, three kids, and a house 10 miles from the grocery store, school, and work, the recent spike in gas is a major burden. To a middle class family that lives nearer to amenities — and probably drives a newer and more fuel-efficient car — the price hike is more of a mental disturbance than a real hardship.

I thought about the gas-price gap today when I saw a statistic from the Recreational Vehicle Rental Association showing that R.V. rentals are expected to be 20% higher this year than last year. I have never filled up an R.V. gas tank, but I’m guessing it would cost more than some families’ weekly grocery bill. But if that 20% increase is legitimate, there are an awful lot of people out there on the right side of the gas-price gap.