Thursday, November 15, 2007
By Barry Burleson
I’m really fed up with these gas prices, and I only live about two miles from the office.
I can only imagine the effect the outrageous prices, which have soared over $3 a gallon this week, are having on long-distance commuters to and from work.
Several months back when prices rose, I refused to put any more than $50 worth in my truck. I guess I have to change that.
Oh, how I long for those days when $20 filled up a tank. And, no doubt some of you remember better days than that.
Family budgets are changing. Sacrifices are being made. Credit card debt is increasing, too, according to a news report.
Business budgets are changing. Last week one of my drivers at The South Reporter put $75 worth in our delivery van. Wow!
From the weekly newspaper, to the trucking industry, to school districts with buses, to law enforcement and rescue departments with emergency vehicles, everyone is getting hit - and hit hard.
The problem is not getting the attention it deserves on the national level. I know there are more serious problems out there - but this one has gotten out of hand.
I turned on the Today Show the other morning. Some so-called experts were talking about the possibility of a recession.
The next day there were predictions of a dismal holiday season -spending-wise at retail businesses. That seems obvious.
And why do the gas prices always seem to soar before holidays? Lots of people take to the roads to visit loved ones. They must have gas to make those trips. So it goes to $3.05 a gallon and beyond before Thanksgiving.
I found an article entitled “What’s behind gas prices?” on the National Public Radio (NPR) website, written by Scott Horsley.
The biggest factor in rising costs is the price of crude oil, followed by the cost of refining.
As an example, if a gallon of gas costs $2.90, crude oil accounts for about $1.60. Refining costs add another 64 cents or so to a gallon of gas. The balance of the price is taxes - about 55 cents - and distribution and market costs, which account for about 11 cents a gallon.
Big oil companies are the beneficiary of high market prices, but they can no more control prices than a farmer can dictate what he gets for a bushel of corn, according to the article.
Oil companies don’t set crude-oil prices; the global market does. Basically, the market decides what people are willing to pay at a certain amount in time. Right now, we’re apparently all willing to pay over $3 a gallon.
Obviously, we need to walk more, or carpool, or ride a bicycle. I rode a motorcycle as a young teen. Maybe it’s time to buy another one.
Other suggestions from NPR’s “Car Talk” include:
- Use the lowest grade of gas your car can take.
- Slow down. For every mile you drive above 55 mph, your fuel economy drops by 2 percent.
- Don’t accelerate when driving uphill. It makes your mileage per gallon plummet. Instead, try to drive at the same speed or slower.
- Try to brake less by anticipating stops. When you brake, you waste the acceleration you’ve already used. Try to accelerate slowly when leaving a stoplight, and then coast to the next light.
- Get rid of junk in your trunk. Every 100 pounds in the trunk can reduce your fuel economy by 1 to 2 percent.
Ultimately, the solution is increasing supply and decreasing demand. The NPA article says that means developing new oil fields, building new refineries, replacing gas guzzlers with gas sippers and searching for alternative fuels.
Meanwhile, I’ll go put in another $50 and watch the hand go to maybe three-quarters of a tank.
And maybe that will last me a week, if I cut back on road trips.
But now we’re a three-car family, too. It’s going to get worse before it gets better. Odds are, we will never see $2 a gallon again.
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