Monday, July 10, 2000

Week of 07/10/2000

The Price At The Pump:
Who Is REALLY To Blame?

- by David Matthews 2

I had been noticing lately a lot of new signs showing up at the gas stations. Signs that spell out exactly what happens to people who don’t pay for the gas they pump into their cars. I hadn’t seen anyone "pump-and-peel", as it is now being called, but I was a bit curious as to why this is supposedly the new trend.

Then I saw what the price of gas cost…

You know, for the past year or so I’ve been warning people that this so-called "great economic boom" was going to crash. Prosperity doesn’t last forever, especially if the government is involved in it. But who would have thought that the catalyst for our economic downturn would be the price at the pump?

Well, actually, a few folks did, but I’m getting ahead of myself here.

For the past few months, we’ve been watching with anger and with disgust as the price of gasoline has been climbing ever so high. In some areas, the price of regular unleaded is over two dollars a gallon, which is unheard of in America, even during the Gulf War crisis.

So motorists are mad. No, not just mad… thoroughly and completely disgusted. They’re disgusted that in peacetime, when all of the bad boys in the Middle East are playing nice, they’re having to pay double for what they had to pay last year.

"Highway robbery," commented one motorist to me as we both filled our respective vehicles. "That’s what it is.. nothing but a complete rip-off!"

I couldn’t agree more!

But who is to blame for it?

Well, it’s easy to blame the infamous "Big Oil" for the price spike. Everyone remembers the gas crisis in the 1970’s and early 80’s. We all remember the gas rationing and the odd-even system some states had to establish. And then our jaws dropped when the oil executives put on the dumb blond act and exclaimed "Gee, HOW did all of these oil tankers get here? Who told them to wait out in the middle of the ocean?" We knew it was an act, and we never forgave them for it. We still bought their gas, but we never forgave them for playing that game on us.

And, yeah, we didn’t like the way we were more or less coerced into the Gulf War by the spike in gas prices then either. Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait and the prices soar. We launch the ground war, and the prices plummet. How very Pavlovian.

So it is very easy for us to start once again pointing the fingers at the oil companies, and call them out for being the greedy bastards we know them to be. So easy, in fact, that even Vice-President Al "I Invented Gasoline" Gore is taking part in the blame game by pointing his fingers at "Big Oil."

Not so fast, Mister Roboto. First of all, let me ask you when was the last time you ever got out of your air conditioned limousine to pump gas like the rest of us? "Common man" my ass!

Speaking of gas, how goes the company your father once chaired.. Occidental Petroleum? You remember Occidental, don’t you? Owned by the old family friend, the late Armand Hammer? One of those companies that make up what you conveniently call "Big Oil"?

And don’t try to act so surprised about the price hikes either. Your mentor and boss, President Bill Clinton, KNEW about the production slowdown six months before it would take effect! Matter of fact, the Clinton Regime approved of the slowdown, saying it would help out countries like Mexico and Russia.

And, you know, we wouldn’t be so dependant on oil from foreign nations if we didn’t stop pumping oil closer to home! There are areas rich with oil that could have kept OPEC from dictating the market price, but we can’t touch them. Why? Because the Clinton Regime decided they would rather appease the demands of the environmentalists. So Clinton used his executive privilege to once again seize land not his and put those areas under protection as a "wildlife preserve." Oh yes, nothing like letting other nations use up their natural resources just so we can "preserve" the pristine look of our own lands.

Don’t forget those "clean air" programs. All of those programs to cut down on smog by refining gasoline even further, or mixing it with alcohol or other oils. Guess what? Those don’t come for free. The latest "clean air" program.. compliments of the Clinton Regime.. took effect around the same time as the start of the last gas price hike. Gee, what a coincidence!

Oh, and speaking of the Regime, we just can’t thank Energy Secretary Bill Richardson enough for "keeping gas prices down." Matter of fact, that’s what Secretary Richardson was recently honored for by the petroleum companies at the exact same time when he SHOULD have been testifying before Congress to explain his department’s incompetence in recent years. Oh yeah, THANKS Mister Richardson for the FINE job you’re doing! Keep those gas prices low for us!

If there is one thing that can be said about the Clinton Regime, it is that they certainly know how to put the "hyp" in "hypocrisy"!

So-called "Big Oil" isn’t the only group that has been gouging us at the pump. Uncle Sam and many of his fifty spoiled brats have also been contributing to the differences in gas prices between the states. Ever wonder how some politician’s pet program gets funded without a rise in your income or sales taxes? That’s right, it got funding from the pump. A penny here, a nickel there. It all adds up.

But you know what, folks? They aren’t the only ones to blame for the gas problem.

Let’s get brutally honest here. If you want to know who contributed to our gas price spike, you just have to ask yourself two little questions: What kind of vehicle do you drive? And what kind of gas mileage does it have?

Oh yes, you remember what the gas mileage was all about don’t you? You should. The US Auto manufacturers certainly did. It was the key issue for many Americans in the late 70’s and early 80’s for buying foreign cars. Who wanted to "Buy American" when the cars they offered had crappy gas mileage? We certainly didn’t. We were the one who made Toyota and Volvo and Saab household names!

Well apparently we forgot all about those days, because in the 90’s, the "IN" thing to do was to buy the civilian’s next best thing to a tank, the sport utility vehicle. Sure they were big, bulky, polluting eyesores that had less gas mileage than a 1977 Ford Fairlane. Sure they were about as overrated as a self-produced Kevin Costner movie. That didn’t matter to the neo-Yuppie crowd. They NEEDED the SUV because it was "safe." Well, not safe for anyone around them, but safe for THEM. And besides, gas prices were low, right? They could afford to pay the extra $10-30 per week for gas as long as it kept them "safe."

Well now that extra $10-30 per week has ballooned to $100-200 per week, eating a hole in your wallet so big you could drive through it. But.. that doesn’t matter, does it? Because you’re "safe" in your SUV.

Maybe that explains why gas station owners are now concerned about people who "pump-and-peel".

Look, folks, the reason why gas prices continue to rise is because we’re not giving the oil companies any reason to think it will hurt their bottom line. Remember the guy who was talking to me at the gas station? He was commenting about the prices being highway robbery while he was fueling up his boat. Sure the prices are high, but we’ll still continue to pay at the pump. We’ll still make plans to drive when we really don’t have to. We’ll still drive out to the parks and off to vacation spots. That only lets the oil companies know that the gas prices aren’t high enough!

If you really want the gas prices low, forget trying to go to the government for help. The only thing you’ll hear are more excuses about why gas prices are so high. Sure some states are considering suspending their gas taxes, but those are just short-term solutions. At best you’ll save ten cents to the gallon, but once the prices have "stabilized", those taxes will go right back in place, and the price at the pump will go back up again.

Do you really want to do something about those prices? Well, you’re going to have to cut back on your driving to do it! Forget your vacation plans. Spend some time closer to home. Don’t drive to the other side of town just to get a gallon of milk. Look into carpooling, subways, and telecommuting. Find alternatives to using your car to go places. That’s the only way we will let the oil companies know we won’t tolerate their games.

And when the time comes for you to start looking for a new car, start putting gas mileage on the top of your list. Sure, that means writing off the sport utility vehicles, but it doesn’t mean writing off safety and convenience. Minivans work just as well as an SUV, and with far better gas mileage! And you know what? When people stop buying those damn SUVs, then the auto manufacturers will start making them with better gas mileage. The only reason why they didn’t in the first place was because we the consumer didn’t think that was high enough of a priority.

Sure, the oil companies, OPEC, and the gasoline providers are bilking us to death. That’s become their nature, and we should accept that as such. But if we want real relief, we have to change the one area that we HAVE influence over, and that is over our own habits.

No comments: