Everyday seems to bring more and more bad news for American oil consumers. Today oil prices jumped to nearly $133 per barrel based on supply concerns. This will mean higher gasoline prices, which today hit a nationwide average of $3.80 per gallon, which in turn affects the costs of items transported by oil-fueled vehicles, which is, well, everything. If nothing else, the 1990s was considered a fairly prosperous time for the country. In the last decade of the 20th century, we saw the internet revolution, the explosion in popularity of cell phones, a housing boom, the rise of SUV ownership, and the mainstreaming of cable television from a rich novelty in the late 70's/early 80's to 60% of American households by 1992. The yuppie dream of happiness through consumption, a benchmark of the Reagan years, flowed forward uninhibited with growing economy, early retirements and longer leisure hours. At least an entire generation grew up looking to buy the latest technological gizmo taking the world by storm. But put down the credit card and stop watching that commercial advertising Ginsu knives. It's time for reality to creep in. The fact is, following the oil crash in 1982, American's were paying an extremely small percentage of their paycheck toward fuel costs and freeing up more and more capital to spend on material things. We got used to having money to buy Nintendo games, pagers and Doc Martens. Luxuries became necessities. But now that oil prices have exceeded the highs that they reached following the previous oil crisis of the 1970s, a larger chunk of American pocketbooks are being directed toward the gas pump. And the question I have to ask you, dear readers, is if American can handle it. Think about it. Really, think about it. How many things do you own in your house that either didn't exist back in 1982, or wasn't owned by most people. The old joke in the 80s was only doctors and drug dealers had pagers. We all thought it was silly when Zach Morris whipped out his giant-sized cellular phone on "Saved By The Bell." That rich guy down the street had a channel called HBO. But with a sudden flush of cash following the oil drop, we all started buying these things. And with oil prices staying low, we bought a bunch of things that require monthly bills, like internet, cable, cell phones, etc. Low fuel costs allowed us to have these luxuries and still allow us to buy things like groceries and pay the increased electric bills to run all these devices. But with a full tank of gas costing $50-$80, and food prices jumping up as well to reflect the rising transportation costs, just what are we to do with all of our toys? Can we even afford to keep them? –Stephen Payne, Editor, Oil and Gas Investor This Week; spayne@hartenergy.com