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Driving season begins, as does griping about gas

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In a study of reactions people had in 2008 when gasoline spiked above $4 a gallon for the first time, the Baker Institute and the Brookings Institution found that people’s happiness dropped as if their monthly income had fallen by $530, even though the damage was closer to $70 a month.

Beyond those price signs in our faces, the high cost and the lack of an alternative, there are subtle factors that make us grumble about gasoline, experts say.

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We know that buying gasoline sends U.S. dollars abroad and supports countries whose interests don’t always line up with those of the United States. We also know that burning gasoline pollutes the air and contributes to climate change.

We rarely consider that gasoline is amazing stuff. So packed with energy that one gallon can propel a family 30 miles down a highway in a 3,000 pound car at 70 miles an hour.

It is so useful, convenient and, yes, cheap that we haven’t developed an economically viable alternative.

But we’ve come to expect it to do all that it does at a much lower price than we pay today. And when it costs more than we’d like, we just have to take it. We’re stuck staring at a big bill with nothing to do but obsess over how much it costs, how much it will cost next time and who’s to blame.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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