Gas prices are soaring, and as the most oil-dependent state in the nation, Maine people have plenty to be concerned about.

In what is normally the slowest time of the year, gas prices in Maine are hovering just under $3.80 per gallon and $4 gas looks like a sure thing during the peak driving season this summer.

The last time gas hit $4 per gallon was 2007, right on the brink of a world wide recession. Now uncertainty in the Middle East is driving price increases, and it would take another global economic collapse to bring them back down.

Not that anyone is rooting for that.

Rising energy costs could be seen as a positive signal, if they didn’t take such a big bite out of our economy. Every time gas and home heating oil increases by $1 per gallon, as they have in the last 14 months, $1 billion leaves our economy.

The last time gas prices soared, Maine people adapted. Auto dealerships could not get fuel-efficient cars fast enough and used SUVs glutted the market. Co-workers carpooled, services such as the Zoom Bus, supported by the Maine Turnpike Authority, saw a ridership peak.

Those are the kinds of adaptations Mainers should be prepared to make again, but we need solid energy policy on the state and federal level.

In spite of what Gov. Paul LePage says, conservation is not a “Ponzi scheme.” Money spent making homes more energy-efficient is money that stays in Maine. Leaving homes leaky just exports those dollars elsewhere.

Long-term efforts to provide alternative transportation and encouraging “smart growth” developments that build density in downtowns cut travel times and will lower Mainers’ energy spending, as well as the state’s road maintenance responsibilities.

Investment in renewable energy resources also is needed to give Mainers other choices when they heat their homes and run their vehicles.

Rising gas prices are another warning siren. This time we should listen.

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