Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Shock at pump prompts query

This first published April 3, 2008 in the Henderson Home News, a Community Newspapers of Nevada publication.

For the past six months I’ve been driving a hybrid that averages 46 miles per gallon and costs about $26 to $30 to fill up. Occasionally, I drive the Big Red Truck for short trips to the hardware and lumber store or to run a quick errand. Since August, I hadn’t had to fill it up until last week. The gas tank was near empty, windows were dirty, and you might say she was ignored playing second fiddle to the sprightly little gas miser.

I pulled into the gas station, stuck the nozzle in the receptacle and walked away to give a little TLC to my abused truck by cleaning the windows and wiping down the interior from an accumulation of dust and yellow pollen. After a few moments I heard the ka-chunk of the nozzle shutting off, giving me the cue to finish up. A quick glance at the pump stopped me in my tracks, I blurted out an “oh my gosh,” or something like that, staring at the $93.81 displayed on the pump. I was caught in a sort of “Pump Paralysis” — downright denial or disbelief.

Dumbfounded, I began wondering out loud, how do people do it? Shaking my head side to side, I pulled the nozzle out and slowly placed it back into pump. I thought back when I last had this sinking feeling. It was a $73 revelation at the pump last summer. We bought the hybrid shortly thereafter.

What in the world are we going to do, how long is this going last and who is responsible?

If you were to ask me, I would tell you, first we need to change our habits. Because we have failed miserably at using and urging mass transit in Southern Nevada, now we find ourselves in a transportation quagmire. You can bet it isn’t completely local governments’ fault, either, because they have attempted to designate light rail lines, only to be shut down by the public and a boatload of NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) people.

We are hampered by our own bullheaded, Western ideals, instinctively refusing to give up the convenience of our vehicles. However, it isn’t easy to use mass transit in the Las Vegas Valley. Routes are long and time consuming to get around any distance.
Again, this isn’t the fault of local governments. They have provided the buses and we have failed to use them. The more a system is used, the better and more effective it will become.

The answer to how long is it going to last may be easier to field. The price of gas will probably continue to ebb and flow upward until alternative fuels are implemented. Unfortunately, the cost of fuel affects every bit of daily life and our cost of living.

As far as who is responsible, that is easier to answer. Simply look in the mirror. We all have played a part in what ails America.
Sure, you can blame the oil companies that are making huge profits on the backs of not only Americans but also the world. Many of we Americans are also profiting through ownership of petroleum stocks, which is great.
While middle America shrinks, the wealthiest Americans prosper by investing in developing countries, possibly bringing good fortune back home to the United States.

I have to wonder how long will it take before the rising cost of everyday products due to fuel costs overtakes the value of the dividend check and will finally sink in? Profiting from stock investments is not a crime — it is capitalism at its best.

What probably should be criminal is the lack of reinvestment by these profiteering oil companies into alternative fuels. I suspect that is exactly what Congress may find out when the big oil companies’ executives are summoned to Capitol Hill this week or next to testify on the gas price explosion.

On a brighter note, we should all be happy we live in or near Las Vegas. The gas prices may not be easy, but at least the jobs here are still plentiful.

Las Vegas is a land of opportunity where anyone with a little ingenuity can carve out a livelihood. Las Vegas’ economy is somewhat insulated from the rest of the country’s in that people are still coming, homes are still selling and jobs are on the horizon, with projects like City Center.

If the rest of the country tanks and Americans stop coming to Vegas to play, then there is always the prospect of foreign tourist continuing their visits to the entertainment capital of the world. As other countries grow economically, there will be a larger foreign market for Las Vegas to tap into.
Our future is solely in our own hands and it is up to us make adjustments in our habits for positive change.

My bride chooses to ride her bike to work whenever possible and as for me, I’ll continue to drive the sprightly little hybrid and limit the use of the Big Red Truck.

Tim O’Callaghan, co-publisher of the Home News, can be reached at 990-2656 or tim.oc@vegas.com.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Tim,

I read your article in today's paper. I suffer from the same problem you have, filling up my Lincoln Navigator and my Sea Ray boat.. We differ in the reason for why we are so "dumbfounded".

I believe it is large part due to oil speculators and greed for profits. I watched yesterdays hearings on oil and why the oil companies profits are so high. Naturally they insisted that they needed the huge profits and basically offered no solution for lowering gas prices. I watched hoping a senator would ask questions about the price of gas and relate it to prices in the 70's, 80's, 90's and 3 years ago. No one did that, that I observed and no one asked why gas outstripped the rate of inflation.

If you watch Squawk Box on CNBC in the mornings you will see why gas is so high. When they go to the NYNEX market, the young lady shouts in glee, "We are having a rally today" as oil goes to $110 a barrel. On a down day she reports in a glum manner that oil is collapsing when it approaches $100. Also, she might report that 2 gunmen in Nairobi shot at a oil refinery, the result a jump in the price of oil. What a joke! She doesn't seem to understand about all of the people in our country that are getting driven to the poor house.

The price of oil is high not because I drive my Lincoln Navigator 100 miles in a month or use my boat 2-3 times a year. It's due to lousy speculators that the government doesn't want to control. You can suggest that I change my habits but the result will be immeasurable as far as lowering the cost of oil. Maybe on some macro scale it can be effected but with my small usage, no way.

Find the right person or business to point the finger at, but blaming the individual misses the mark.

I joke with friends that the Presidential candidate that promises $1.99 a gallon gas I will vote for. As a staunch Republican voting for a Democrat would be very difficult, but give me gas back at $1.99 and they have my vote. My next email goes the all the local politicians I can get email addresses for.

Thanks for listening,

Pete Ferrell

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