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Sunday, January 2, 2011

In 2011, $5 Gas, Tea Party Power, E-Book Boom, Social Media Slowdown?

by NPR Staff

What's in store for the new year?

Some predictions: gas prices will hit $5 a gallon, Republican governors will set their sights on the 2012 presidential campaign and the "share-everything" social media trend will plateau.

Fear Pushing Gas Prices Up?

Prepare to fork over $5 for a gallon of gasoline by 2012, former Shell Oil president John Hofmeister says. That's nearly $2 more than the current average price of $3.05 per gallon, according to the Department of Energy.

American demand for gasoline has returned to pre-recession levels, while demand from Asian countries has increased beyond levels in 2007 and 2008, says Hofmeister, author of Why We Hate the Oil Companies: Straight Talk From an Energy Insider.

"There's a psychology of oil pricing based on fear — fear of shortage, fear of lack of supply," he tells NPR's Jacki Lyden. The Obama administration sent a shock to the world trading marketplace when it said the U.S. is not going to pursue more off-shore drilling at a time when the world needs more crude oil.

Republican Vs. Republican?

In 2010, the Republicans and Democrats fought for control of Congress. This year, it might be the Republicans and, well, the Republicans who duke it out on Capitol Hill, Reid Wilson, editor-in-chief of National Journal Hotline, tells NPR's Jacki Lyden.

The Tea Party-backed candidates of 2010 campaigned on a pledge to cut spending — and it worked. But now they're in office, and the first thing the Republican leadership is going to ask them to do is to vote to allow the government to spend more.

"I think you're going to see a lot of these Tea Party members really sort of understanding the ways of Washington quickly, getting their feet in the fire and having to realize, 'Yeah, we have to vote to raise the debt ceiling, even though we've promised to cut spending,' " Wilson says.

$50 E-Book Readers?

Last year the price of e-books readers began a nosedive that won't end in 2011.
"I think by the end of [2011] you’ll see [e-book readers] getting blown out in clearance for like 50 bucks," tech writer Clive Thompson says. "When [an e-book reader] becomes almost as disposable as a pocket calculator, you'll see the vast majority of people switching over."

Social Media Slowdown?

In the last few years, online users have swarmed social networking sites, revealing everything from their first kiss to their least favorite co-worker.

But Thompson, contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and Wired, says that the "share-everything" tide is beginning to turn.

"A lot of people are becoming uncomfortable with how much they're putting out there," he says. "This is the year we're going to see them scale back a little bit and become a little more guarded."

As unlikely as it sounds, Thompson's prediction is based on a technology trend from the past.
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