Thursday, May 10, 2007

Gas Prices Reach New Historical High

California Gasoline Prices Adjusted for Inflation

According to California's figures, we've leaped over 1980 and '81 to have the highest gasoline prices in history adjusted for inflation. The cost then, in current $ averaged about $2.60 per gallon, and so-far this year we're spending an average of $2.80 per gallon, and it's only May.

I just spent $3.41 per gallon, and that's at the cheap station in Alhambra. Pricier westside locations are nearing - maybe topping - $4.00 per gallon.

Some days, I think we should all drive gas guzzling behemoths, so we actually reach a crisis point with supply and the guys in Detroit pull those 200 MPG carburetor plans out from deep storage...but I still gaze with wonder whenever I see a sparking Suburban or H2 with dealer plates and a fat 'n happy four-foot woman driving it (or a size-challenged over-compensating trust fund kid). What kind of freak would buy such a vehicle in this day and age, just as an FU in the face of the rest of us?

We will inevitably reach the end of affordable oil. In the meantime, stinking slobbering showoff vehicles kill us with more crap in our air, their drivers all oblivious to the self-hate they must have. Are SUVs the new suicide-by-cigarette?

We each have to make a choice to consume less by buying reasonable cars - yay for me, I drive a gas-sipping Toyota Yaris - and to drive less, drive when and where others aren't etc. Higher gas prices are unfortunately a regressive tax, since most of us don't have the choice to cut our driving in half (shame on employers who aren't telecommuting-tolerant). We have to choose to drive better - pick a lane and stay in it, don't swerve around trying to gain a car length or two (and for god's sake use your turn signal if you do, and respect others' turn signals...), don't speed up and slow down to fill gaps when we will all get there faster if you choose a steady pace, plan your exits in-advance, use onramps to get up to the speed of the traffic (you will use a little more gas, but many cars will be able to retain their current speed), pick a speed and stay with it...the list goes on. It's just common sense.

What steams me is that the historical high in no way reflects a historical high in crude oil prices. The only thing that tracks reasonably with gas prices is oil company profits. Can I go ahead and conclude that when the C-level execs, board members, and shareholders want a raise, they concoct one out of thick air, and thick goo? The rest of us suffer while they have record profits, salaries and bonuses, and dividends.

The oil companies have too-long acted monopolistically and our health, economy, and security are suffering. As we increase our lifespans, the things that we die from are more and more from our environment. When historical-price wages and income are stagnant or shrinking for most of us and gas prices continue to skyrocket, we will spend less and less on the consumer goods and which have fueled the economy recently. And when we choose to go to war for oil and profit - monetary and political - our nation is in danger.

It's time to consider dropping all tax breaks to oil companies. They always will find a way to be profitable, whether crude oil prices are $20 per barrel or $80 per barrel. The hidden costs of war to protect the interest of the oil companies are horribly huge, both monetarily and morally. We have to here the minutes of Cheney's energy task force meeting at the White House before 9/11, and most likely this will put the light of day on high crimes and misdemeanors. We have to treat gas as a utility, since it is needed at every level of commerce and since the price can be gamed at will.

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