There's a new economic concern simmering no the horizon for cash-strapped Americans. Rising oil prices.
Most aren't too worried about rising oil prices since the average price for a gallon of gasoline in the U.S. has been dropping. In the past week, the national average price for a gallon of gas is just $3.275, according to AAA. That's 32 cents per gallon more than it it a year ago, but 71 cents off a previous high for this year -- near $4 a gallon.
With lower prices at the pump, rising oil prices pass by with nary a glance.
But its' not likely to remain that way.
Gas prices are dropping as oil prices rise -- tipping off Tuesday at $101.29 per barrel on Tuesday in New York -- because consumer demand is weak. Refiners, therefore, have little choice but to drop the price at the pump at oil prices rise. But they don't like the squeeze play -- not at all.
Of paramount concern is the fact that oil prices have jumped so high with the global economy in such doldrums. That means if the economy gets moving, oil prices will only go higher -- likely much higher. And if the U.S. economy continues to slowly and steadily improve as it has recently, demand will slowly and steadily increase.
Americans have short memories. Those same high prices that pushed them to fuel efficient cars and cutting out non-essential driving early this year is yesterday's mail when prices get low as they are now. With a little financial easing, and lower prices at the pump, demand will return. Refiners will then gladly leap beyond their current squeeze play, and prices at the pump will be rising in 2012.
Faster than many consumers can stomach, perhaps. Faster than the fragile economy can handle, perhaps.
It's a fickle world a balance we live in, one in which the scale is constantly trying to tilt one way or another. High oil prices helped slow recovery after the Great Recession of 2008, and high oil prices could help slow the recovery of the recovery of the Great Recession of 2008.
At the moment, most Americans don't seem to know, or care. But rising oil prices a major concern, even if they aren't yet showing up at the pump.