Friday, April 21, 2006

Gaseous Clouds

It's beginning to look a lot like California around here. No, I don't mean the weather. I am referring to the $3 a gallon gas prices, up from $2.69 just a week ago.

Normally I'm not given over to conspiracy theories, mainly because I find it far too easy to construct a web of intrigue out of almost any premise. Yet, when all of the gas stations in the neighborhood sell gas for the same price per gallon, no matter whether the cost goes up or down, something smells funny, and it ain't the fumes from the gas pumps.

My wife does most of the driving since my bus ride to and from work is paid by my employer, so gas prices are out of sight and out of mind until I actually have to fuel up. Of course, on the one or two occasions during the week when I need to drive, she leaves the car in the driveway for me with its tank nearly empty, necessitating a visit to the nearest fuel depot. Yesterday I paid $65 to fill the tank in my minivan. Fifteen years ago, I could fill my compact station wagon on just a little over $10. It's enough to make me want to sell the car and use the proceeds to pay down my mortgage. The whole sad situation made me wonder if there really isn't something to the leftist propaganda which states that the Bush Administration is all about oil.

Fortunately, there's always right wing talk radio to balance out the talking points on the other side of the tracks. Sean Hannity was discussing gas prices on his show while I was out expending fuel. I don't much like listening to Hannity, since he strikes me as being rather something of a twit (some call him an egomaniac, and he certainly does seem to be full of himself) who lacks the entertaining style of many of his peers. I wasn't very happy with what he was saying when I first turned the radio on; it sounded like he had no problem with the rising price of gasoline. I hope he was being facetious, but with Hannity it's sometimes a little too hard to tell.

Whatever it was, he went on to say a number of things that I actually liked hearing. We don't do enough domestic drilling, either on dry land or offshore, due to environmentalist outcry. Alaska is the most well-known case, but there are plenty of other places where we could get our own petrol without leaving the country. The sooner we do this, the sooner we can reduce our fabled dependence on foreign oil.

Hannity also asserted his support for 110 mpg cars, and development of alternate fuels. Supposedly the technology for the former has existed for many years, and there are a number of conspiracy theories about why it has never been done, most of them regarding oil companies' hold on auto manufacturers. Alternate fuels such as ethanol are gaining in popularity. Frankly, I am all for it as long as it makes things cheaper in general, the same way that fuel prices are making everything more expensive.

The one silver lining is my home heating bill. A lot of us took a big hit last Fall when the monthly fixed budget payment nearly doubled. That decision was based on an estimate of higher costs over the Winter months, and I am happy to say that the gas company overestimated. I got ahead, and don't have to pay this month because there is a credit on my account. For once, I was smart and put plastic sheeting over the windows, and kept the thermostat down around 63 degrees for as long as it was tolerable. That must have helped. Whatever it was, I'm happy with the way it turned out.

Stepping back and taking another look at the big picture, who benefits? (CONSIPRACY THEORY ALERT)

Public transportation companies, for one. Most local bus and rail authorities are run by people who have an interest in spending public funds. When gasoline gets too expensive, and the commuter has a choice between driving the car or riding the bus, more people are going to opt for the bus ride. A rise in ridership (i.e. higher demand) gives the transit authorities an excuse to request more public monies as well as raising fares. It's a bus conspiracy!

My wife benefits, I suspect. While I have been trying to cut back drastically on my driving, she spends the day zipping around all over the place, using gasoline that is mostly paid for by ME. It makes me wonder whether she doesn't have some kind of money invested in Halliburton or Exxon. She could be making some serious profit and keeping me completely in the dark about it. That would be smart of her, since she's a Democrat and she would just love to make it look like rich Republicans are the only ones benefitting from oil company profits. It's an untrustworthy spouse conspiracy!

I could come up with enough of these theories to fill a book. If you'd like to hear some more, meet me on the bus.


jipzeecab said...

Except for some extreme days in Dec. and Mar. it really was a mild winter around here...what really saved your fuel bill.
I'm getting dozens of hits every day on the "screwing exxon/mobil post I wrote back last August because the "Philip Holsworth chain letter is circulating again.
Last night I looked at what is usually the cheapest gas station around..2.99.9!

Nicko McDave said...

Yeah, it was $2.99 all along West Liberty Avenue last night, but after filling the tank I drove to Bridgeville and saw it at $2.95.

To make it worse for me, the West Liberty stations were down to $2.95 by the time I was riding home from work this afternoon. Damn it!