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