Monday, May 16, 2011

The Price of Gas

While the price of gas may not seem to have a lot to do with studying abroad in Bolivia, in fact it impacts us directly in the most obvious of ways. The price of a plane ticket to Bolivia is now about 40% higher than what it was this time last year, and the airlines blame it on gas prices. It is a terrible shock to go online to hunt for plane tickets and find that their costs significantly exceeds the amount you budgeted.

High gas prices have had less of an impact in Bolivia itself. The country gets a good price on Venezuelan fuel oil, and also produces a fair amount of oil and gas for its own consumption. In Cochabamba, the majority of cars have now been converted to burn natural gas instead of gasoline, significantly reducing the price at the pump (and the environmental impact). The state also subsidizes the cost of gas, something that the government tried to reverse last December, only to face a major uprising by outraged citizens. These protests, internationally known as the "gasolinazo," were a surprise to the president, Evo Morales, and his party, though why they should have been is not clear - Evo's predecessors were ejected from office precisely over such neoliberal moves (are you reading your Kohl and Farthing, students?).

In any case, I hope our students are buying their plane tickets now - the prices likely will only continue to increase as our departure date approaches.

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