Wednesday, July 2, 2008 | 2:07 a.m.
There was an eerie sense of security when oil prices first began to rise. Without any hard evidence for their thinking, most people projected an air of palpable optimism — prices will come down, everything will get back to normal.
That optimism is fading now as oil continues its climb to a level no one knows. The news that oil is closing at more than $140 a barrel is not so much shocking now as it is numbing. Reality is setting in that changes — big changes — are upon us and more are coming.
In cities such as Las Vegas, where the economy is driven by tourism, it is unsettling and thought-provoking to read the results of gas-related surveys and polls.
The results of an Associated Press-Yahoo poll, conducted over 10 days in the middle of last month, were released this week. Nine out of 10 respondents said they expected to feel financial pressure over the next six months, and nearly half said they expected a serious strain on their finances.
What could significantly affect our local economy is the way in which the respondents said they are cutting back — most said they are driving less and half said they are curtailing vacation plans.
A Dallas woman said to her interviewer, “Do you think there is an end in sight? I don’t.”
A Saturday story in the Los Angeles Times continued with this theme. It was headlined “What if oil hits $200?”
The article included an interview with a Palmdale, Calif., woman who has given up her recreational vehicle trips, who stays home most weekends and who has even quit a volunteer job because the commute got too expensive.
According to a poll cited in the article, more than half of Californians say they are driving less and 42 percent say they are reining in their vacations. This is seriously depressing news for Nevada, which has always been able to count on a steady influx of California tourists.
But we have always been able to count, too, on the savvy of Nevada’s public and private tourism officials. We really need their expertise now, more than at any other time in recent memory.