Friday, May 25, 2007

How much you pay for gasoline

Because gasoline is an earth science related commodity, I feel I can still call this post earth science related even though it will largely be an airing of grievances. As anyone in the U.S. who ever listens to the radio, picks up a newspaper, or clicks on a TV can tell, gasoline prices are at an all time high right now, just prior to a big travelling/driving holiday weekend. I am not sure what the average price is, but at the Exxon station down the street from my house it is $3.15 a gallon for regular. This seems to be a huge story, oil prices are down, but gas prices are up, oil companies are gouging us, what will congress do to save the consumer? The hard working American? The major news outlets are particularly fond of this, pointing out how gas costs are starting to really hurt middle class America. Even NPR is devoting an amazing amount of newstime to the issue, and to top it all off, the other day I got an email from rallying for a petition to stop oil companies from price gouging, save America! While I agree price gouging for any product it wrong, and if that is happening I want people held accountable, I am shocked by the focus. Has anyone (even the "progressive" used this as a rallying cry for increased funding of public transportation? How about tighter fuel standards? Of course not, the focus is all on how much you pay at the pump. It burns me that spending an extra $30 or $40 a month shares headlines with all of the truly horrible things happening in the world.

This gets me riled up, because what everyone seems to be ignoring is that you decide how much you are going to pay for gasoline WHEN YOU BUY YOUR CAR. Fluctuations of the price at the pump really don't make that much of a difference. For example, my wife and I own 1 car, a 1999 Saturn SL, which easily gets over 35 mpg in the city, and often tops out of 45 mpg on the highway. We drive more than we like to; we now live in a city with poor public transportation, and previously lived in a situation where Mrs. Apparent-dip-but-with-a-different-last-name could either spend 5 hours round trip on public transport or make the same round trip in 1.5 hours in the Saturn. Anyways, my point is that we drive, but when we bought our car our first concern was mileage. The big myth is that if you want a high mileage car you have to plunk down over $20,000 for a hybrid, that just isn't true. Many 4 cylinder cars get good mileage, and are on the cheaper end of the car price spectrum (lik ours.) So, we bought a car, we take public transportation when we can, but we end up driving a fair amount. The recent spike in gas prices means that every month I pay maybe $25 more for gas now that I did 6 years ago. That's it. A few less schwanky coffee drinks per month? Maybe cut my own hair, instead of my usual expensive professional 'do? I am paying less for gas now than the driver of some behemoth SUV compensation monstrosity did 10 years ago. Even the most fuel efficient SUV's rarely break 20 mpg, which means that if they bought gas at half of it's current price they'd still be paying as much as I do now at the current record high prices. The point of this is that anyone who has bought a new car in the last 10 years intentionally decided how much they wanted to pay for gas and what kind of mileage they wanted, and if they went with a low mileage, then instead of complaining about oil companies they should realize that it is mainly the fault of their terrible decision making skills that fluctuations in gas prices cost them so much. Especially when they ponied up $25,000 or more for a 6 or 8 cylinder SUV or "luxury" sedan; you knew what you were buying, so stop complaining so much! And if this is a rallying cry for anything it should be for public transportation and intelligently designed (read walkable and bikeable) communities.

I am not pro price gouging, or a huge fan of all of the business dealings of oil companies, but they are companies, and the reason they make so much fricking money is because we use so much of their fricking product. Nail them for price gouging if they are doing it, but seriously, there are more than one party in the wrong here.

OK, have a good holiday weekend.


BrianR said...

our '96 Saturn kicked the bucket a few weeks was a good car...our new car is a Nissan Versa (which is kind of think is like a modern, and better, version of the Dogde Omni). for us price and mileage were the top factors in buying a car.
Safety, options, color, etc. are all secondary.

We did the math on a hybrid and we simply can't afford it at this point...the Prius is really the only way that gets significantly more mileage and it is running about 28K once you put it all together.

"Ain't From Around Here" said...

My parents came to visit Dixie in their Prius- my dad installed a little gadget that lets you use the battery more. They were averaging ~47 mpg before hitting the "hills" of the Appalachians. I think they wound up at 42 mpg all told. I think the round trip cost around $80 in gas. They love it.

Thermochronic said...

Nice, a Prius would be sweet. When we first got our Saturn one of our first long drives was California to Wisconsin, and we got over 50 mpg once, coming down the eastern slope of the Rockies, so I guess it was kind of cheating...
I got to thinking about this last summer. I drove a 17 foot moving truck 3000 miles out to ESRU, and that behemoth loaded down with all of our crap got better mileage than a Hummer.

Anonymous said...

I wonder what Dick Cheney drives.
In fact I wonder what all the oil execs that met with Vice President Cheney the first year he was in office. In fact I wonder why those documents are not public and marked top secret. Does anybody else wonder?

Anonymous said...

you know cause of the gas prices my family cancelled it trip for this holiday season; even though i drive a 04 honda accord and my dad drives a 07 honda cr-v and both of the cars give excellent gas mileage its just that we have to pay $95 dollars a week for both the cars thats outrages man!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thermochronic said...

Anony - sucks you have to cancel the trip, I guess the way I think of it. Lets say I am going to drive 600 miles round trip for a vacation. That means 20 gallons of gas for a fuel efficient car, which at my local pump would put me back a total of $72. That is one night at a cheap hotel, and maybe I eat at cheaper places along the way, or picnic. I see your point if your cumulative gas bill makes any vacations tough to pay for. My wife and I have been fortunate to model our lives in ways that don't require us to drive too much, we walk, bike, and bus (or train when we lived in the bay area), even though that meant fewer or smaller choices of apartments, etc. Unfortunately not all communities make that possible. I am still amazed though in my current neighborhood, I have neighbors who work the same place I do and drive in. It is a 1 mile walk! 20 minutes! An even faster bike ride, and even in crappy weather is not that difficult.

Anyways, hope you can find some way to get away this season!

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