They Didn't Ask Me (dr_phil_physics) wrote,
They Didn't Ask Me

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A Factor of Three


That's what I paid for 93 octane premium gasoline last night. So far... (knocks on wood) I haven't seen any local gas stations actually break the $3.00/gallon barrier, but it's going to come. In my gas buying lifetime I've similar resistance to break $1.00 and $2.00, but like Chuck Yeager blasting through Mach 1, I'm sure we'll quickly get up to the trifecta of $3.09.9 / $3.19.9 / $3.29.9 for regular/midgrade/premium, because no one likes to be alone.

It's the old "99 cents isn't a dollar" and "$9.99 is much cheaper than $10.00" marketing ploy. The gasoline industry still hasn't forgiven the gas tax, with the silly 9/10ths of a cent tacked on to every price.

Sigh. I gotten "used" to estimating gas costs by gallons times two. Damn my complacency! Now we're up to gallons times three. Or miles divided by six for the Blazers.

No Problem Here

Michigan Governor Granholm made a statement yesterday that her offices couldn't find any price fixing going on. Um, yeah, right... excepting for my previous suspicions about how all the gas stations raise their prices all at once.

What is so odd is that there seems to be no connection between price and the pump and the real world. Yes, sure, light sweet crude is closing at like $66 a barrel, which is double what it seemed like it was a year ago, but that's recent. Yes, we're using more gasoline, but price and supply & demand don't seem to have much of a lock either.


On Monday morning I happened to notice a HUGE line of cars fighting to get into the new Meijer gas station at M-45 and Wilson. In big red LED numbers, regular was selling for $2.44.9. In the afternoon coming home, the same station was running at $2.79.9. What had happened to the gasoline supply chain in Michigan in those scant few hours from morn to night? What disaster had happened? How much more did it suddenly cost to turn the valves at the refineries? Um... I don't know. But the price jump was thirty-five cents. 14.3% increase in a matter of hours.

Oh Mr. Greenspan! Yoo-hoo! Rampant inflationary forces here! Are you listening?

The Sad Truth

What the pundits touting the recently passed Energy Bill, which really won't affect anything for several years, and most consumer groups don't seem to understand, is that for many of us, we'll just "take it."

If I round off the numbers, my absurd commute might burn 15 gallons every two days. Commuting to Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo five days a week, sixteen weeks a semester, yields 600 gallons a semester. Times three bucks a gallon is $1800. A year ago it might've been two bucks a gallon -- $1200. A year-and-a-half ago when gas was half of today's numbers -- $900.

Yes, this is real money and one hates to have to pay more for exactly the same damned product, but for someone who is really putting on the miles and burning a lot of gas... it's really not that big an increase. (Y'all be sure to remind Dr. Phil of that when I whine about gas prices again -- grin.) And for all of you with little commutes of a few miles and can physically fit into small, higher mileage cars... you're just not spending all that much of your money on gasoline.

Were I to decide that I might try to shoehorn myself into a smaller vehicle, something like my folks' Chevy Cavalier, and roughly double my gas mileage, I'd be saving $900 a semester, $2700 a year. Oh wait, I need the 4WD in the winter time because Allegan County is a skating rink and Kalamazoo and WMU have no concept of what snow plowing is. So I'd save maybe a bit less than $2000 a year. But I'd have to spend more than that to get the car. And since my newest Blazer is currently 11 years old, and I'm not bloody likely to buy an 11 year old car, the newer car is going to cost more, cost more insurance and since it is likely not to be new, still cost maintenance and repairs.

Time Versus Money

Just as all the mad talk about hybrids like the Prius doesn't have an appreciable impact on domestic gasoline usage -- because there just aren't a lot of hybrid cars out there and most of the people who buy them already were driving cars with better gas mileage than average -- you could mandate a doubling of the CAFE fuel standards for 2006 cars and it still would have little impact until ten years down the line. The time to get our gasoline dependence down now, was ten / twenty / twenty-five years ago. Oh wait... didn't the Congress stop the efforts to raise CAFE during the Clinton administration? And didn't people have no interest in re-electing a Jimmy Carter, because in our malaise, we didn't want to be seen making any tough choices?

Oh well... it's only money.

Dr. Phil

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