Rising Prices, Rising Hope?

Posted on July 22, 2008 by ELCA World Hunger

According to Bloomberg.com, as of 10:23 a.m. EST this morning, the price of petroleum in the United States is $127.14 per barrel. The Energy Information Administration states that, as of July 21, the average price of gas in the Midwest is $3.91, which is down from a week ago, but up an entire dollar from the price at this time last year.

In our truly, globalized economy, most everything is interconnected. As the price of gasoline continues to climb, it is amazing, and somewhat alarming, to watch as the entire market begins to change. This past week, Newsweek magazine did an article in the business section entitled “Life at $200 a Barrel.” The article research comes from different sources and is based on the estimated effects of $200 per barrel oil. Here are some of the projections (all in USD):

Barrel of Oil
Now: $147
Future: $200
Gasoline
Now: $4.11/ gal.
Future: $6.30/ gal.
Diesel Fuel
Now: $4.50/ gal.
Future: $5.55/gal.
Tomatoes
Now: $1.77/lb.
Future: $2.86/ lb.
Lettuce
Now: $0.90/ lb.
Future: $1.45/lb.
Shipping containers from Asia:
Now: $8,350
Future: $15,000

The article makes a good point, stating, “When people and businesses spend more on fuel, they have less to spend on everything else,” and argues that $200 per barrel oil “would cause economic growth (in [Gross Domestic Product] GDP) to slow by a couple of points a year.” As of now, people are still spending more on food than on gas, but it is forecasted that around fall 2009, we will begin to spend more on gasoline for our cars than on food for our stomachs.

I read articles like this often, and I am always left with the question, “What does all this mean?”

My thoughts are these. First, with the price of oil on the rise, which directly and indirectly affects everything else, it will be important for minimum wages and salaries, in general, to change in response to increasing prices. I know there is a need for much more extensive planning and long-range thinking, but what do we do in the interim? Second, if we are heading toward a world where we pay more of our hard earned money on gas to get to work than on food for dinner with our family and friends…how does that affect hunger, both the physical experience of hunger and, possibly, the experience of emotional and relational hunger?

The future at times looks bleak, but, I am struck by these words from an African proverb, “For tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.” People of peace, let us begin to prepare, intentionally and carefully, today!

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