Carey King

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

An increasing number of Americans believe the current gasoline prices, which range from $1.93 to $3.29 per gallon nationally, are relatively reasonable, according to the UT Energy Poll released Wednesday. 

In September 2014, 90 percent of Americans believed gasoline prices were too high, but now that number has dropped to 66 percent.

“There’s been such a deep decline in the price,” said Sheril Kirshenbaum, director of the UT Energy Poll. “ I’m paying as much now to fill up my own car as I did in the late 1990s. I think a lot of people are noticing a big difference in how much it costs to travel.”

The sharp decline in oil prices this past year can be attributed to a lack of demand from consumers across the world, according to Carey King, assistant director of the UT Energy Institute.

“Oil production in North America has increased relatively quickly,” King said. “It has increased faster than the demand for gasoline. There’s more oil than people are prepared to consume.”

But people shouldn’t get used to these low prices, King said. 

“[These prices] will be around for six months to a year, at most,” King said.

However, high gas prices have their own set of advantages. Kirshenbaum said that when the price increases, the public usually takes a greater interest in energy conservation.

“When gas prices were very high, we saw a lot more concerns over what people were paying — maybe some more interest in the adoption of renewable technologies or driving hybrid cars,” Kirshenbaum said.

When gas prices decline, number of large vehicles purchased goes up, said Michelle Foss, chief energy economist for the Jackson School of Geosciences.

“When gasoline prices are lower, people tend to use more,” Foss said. “In our country, people have started buying SUVs and trucks again. If the cars people buy are more fuel efficient, which they are, then less gasoline will get used than before.”

The findings in the poll don’t have much significance, according to Foss, because any small price fluctuation in the oil industry has a considerable effect on the U.S.

“We have not had big changes,” Foss said. “Oil prices stabilized a bit. In the U.S., any change in oil price, high or low, gets translated directly to the pump. This is especially true in Texas.”

Carey King, research associate of the Jackson School of Geosciences, gives opening remarks for the UT Energy Symposium Kick Off Thursday evening.

Photo Credit: Kat Loter | Daily Texan Staff

Students will have a new way to engage with energy experts after the UT Energy Symposium kicked off with a talk Thursday on the ways energy consumption has changed society.

The symposium, a new guest speaker series on energy issues hosted by the UT Energy Institute, featured Carey King, a research associate at the Jackson School of Geosciences and research fellow at the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy, as its first guest lecturer. King discussed energy’s effects on the economy, society, environment and public policy.

“As time goes on, energy uses change,” King said. “Before the era of fossil fuels, basically, you spent all of your time farming. Then, instead of horses and buggies, we had tractors and combines. Energy consumption for food production dropped to three hours a day. So what do we do then? Well, you might spend that time and energy in school listening to a lecture.”

King said energy is more than just a field devoted to scientists because fuel, whether in the form of a sandwich providing nutrition or gasoline powering a car, is consumed by all human beings. The symposium will present information not generally available to undergraduates at a level they can understand, King said.

Students registered for the symposium will receive a one-hour credit for taking part in the lectures if they have received clearance from their academic departments, but public affairs graduate student Kristen Lee said she had other reasons to register.

“I’m really interested in natural resources and environmental policy, and energy is a big part of that,” Lee said.

After King’s lecture, Lee said she is more excited about upcoming speakers.

“I really enjoyed it,” Lee said. “I thought he was really eloquent. I’m really looking forward to the variety of speakers.”

Spokesman Gary Rasp said the Energy Institute decided to create the 15-week lecture series in an effort to offer the student body greater access to energy experts and increase undergraduates’ participation after receiving feedback that indicated a niche for the series existed.

“We had learned from interacting with students and faculty that there was a real hunger on campus for an energy-related speaker’s program,” Rasp said. “Once we gauged that appetite, we thought it would be very beneficial to our student body.”

The Institute selected Varun Rai, an associate professor in the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, to direct the symposium. Rai teaches a course on the political economy of global energy and advanced policy economics. He said he originally envisioned the symposium as an interconnected network of students and professors holding a dialogue with top energy experts. Rai said that while many undergraduates showed interest, there was little interaction between experts in different disciplines that addressed the broad scope of energy related industries, technologies and policy.

“The biggest challenge is to allow undergraduates to hear from the best of the best to explore work and research,” Rai said. “We wanted to bring everyone together, so students would hear from the best.” 

Printed on September 2, 2011 as: Symposium educates on energy issues.