American officials only need to look at the natural gas market to find a potential solution to the prolonged high fuel prices that are sapping families and the economy.
Area gasoline prices continue to hover at the $4 a gallon mark, a costly figure already surpassed by diesel fuel. While there are some indications that prices might level off or perhaps drop slightly in the next few weeks, no big declines are foreseen.
That means filling up your vehicle's tank will remain an expensive venture.
But some continue to oppose the easiest solution to high fuel prices: increasing supply through more exploration of domestic oil supplies.
Only a few years ago, Americans, including area residents, were reeling from high natural gas prices.
Four years ago, the gas cost recovery rate for Dominion Peoples - now Peoples Natural Gas - jumped 22 percent to $12.44 per 1,000 cubic feet. The rate represents what the utility paid to buy the natural gas supplied to customers and is about 75 percent of a residential customer's bill.
This month, the same 1,000 cubic feet of natural gas costs $4.13, about a third of the price four years ago.
And the price potentially could go lower in the coming months.
Last week, the futures' prices for natural gas fell below $2 per 1,000 cubic feet, the lowest rate in a decade.
A mild winter that decreased demand assisted in driving down prices, but the biggest factor is the increased supply thanks to drilling in the Marcellus and other shale deposits nationwide.
So much more gas is on the market that officials are worried that unless drilling slows down, the United States might run out of room to store the excess supply this fall.
That's great news to the tens of thousands of area residents and businesses who use natural gas to heat their homes and facilities.
Now imagine what could happen to gasoline prices if oil drilling had the same growth spurt as shale gas exploration. Americans finally might have a chance for real price decreases at the pump.
Such drops won't happen instantly, but as more and more domestic oil supplies come on the market, the principle of supply and demand shows prices will fall.
We might not see a two-thirds decline, as is the case with natural gas, but imagine how much better your family's budget would look with gasoline at $2.75 instead of $4 a gallon.
Some ridicule politicians advocating more oil exploration. But are you better off paying $4.13 or $12.44 for 1,000 cubic feet of natural gas?
Natural gas shows the benefit of unlocking our domestic energy resources. Now it's time to remove some of the restrictions that are hampering exploration of our biggest potential oil reserves so supply once again can drive down the prices we pay.