$7.50 Per Gallon

Over a lovely week-shifted Mother’s Day breakfast last weekend we had an interesting conversation about gasoline prices and the price of flour. My father told a story about a baker in Door County who was closing his doors due to the recent price jumps in flour. Two years ago a bag of flour was $6, a year ago that same bag was $12. The price of the same bag of flour currently sits at $67. Gas prices invariably figure into this primarily due to two factors: transportation costs across the board have increased, and a much larger percentage of arable land is now being used to grow corn for ethanol production purposes.

Talk turned to the specific pains caused by recent surges in the cost of gas, and I mentioned that I haven’t even noticed what with not having a car anymore. There wasn’t any detectable hostility at the table, but I suspected I was being somewhat of a boor in broaching the subject. Indeed I’m very lucky to be able to work from home, but my point was less about finding a job that doesn’t require a commute and more about modifying your lifestyle. It’s about not living 50+ miles from your work. It’s about living in a community where it doesn’t take a car and a 20 mile round trip to get your groceries and errands.

Both in private and in public I’ve often wondered just what it would take to fundamentally change the majority of Americans work/leisure habits with regard to driving, especially long distances. A few years back I naively assumed that $5/gal gas was sufficient to shock people into lifestyle change. As gas now tops $4/gal and I hear nothing but wails about the ‘evil oil companies’ (more on that below) I’ve revised my thinking that $10/gal would be the National Freak-Out Moment.  This morning, however, I linked through one of my RSS feeds to this post by Charlie Blaine.  He projects Freak-Out USA at $7.50/gal:

Gasoline at $7.50 a gallon is something nobody should go into denial over because there are going to be big problems from prices at levels I’ve suggested, including:

Will there be any U.S.-based auto manufacturers left? The answer depends entirely on how fast they can transform their product lines. Chrysler is in deep trouble already. That probably means more stress for the Midwest.

Will there be any domestic airlines left? The so-called legacy airlines (American, United, Northwest, Delta and Continental) would either try to combine into one big carrier or simply disappear. They’re having serious troubles surviving as it is. This means big troubles for cities where these airlines operate hubs that generate thousands of jobs like Atlanta, Cleveland, Newark, Houston, Chicago, Denver, Dallas, Memphis and Minneapolis-St. Paul.

How will big convention cities survive? Places like Las Vegas, New Orleans, Atlanta, Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Houston have thriving convention industries, all built around the capacity of airlines to transport conventioneers to and from the destinations relatively cheaply. Emphasis on the word “cheaply.”

How will tourist destinations like Florida or Hawaii cope? Add to that places like, say, Williamstown, Mass., whose Williamstown Theater Festival is a big draw, or Ashland, Ore., home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. They’re not close to major cities.

One thing I see over and over is the gnashing of teeth about the oil companies and their exorbitant profits while America crumbles.  I don’t harbor any ill will towards them– they’re entire livelihood is screwed soon enough as oil supplies dwindle.  I would imagine that in the next 10 years or so the oil and airline industries will be nationalized; what other choice will they have?  With razor thin profit margins (once the average American can no longer afford their products) or even losses there will be no incentive to stay in business from a purely capitalistic point of view.  Yeah, yeah I’m expounding on economics as if I knew anything about it; it’s simply my cynical take on things.

I’d rather turn all this flailing and anger about driving to the mall to buy salad-shooters into productive activity based on ratcheting down the globalism and outsourcing that have driven so much work out of the country, and forming productive communities again.  It won’t happen overnight, but we need to focus on the problem at hand rather than storm around.

23 thoughts on “$7.50 Per Gallon

  1. why even have a job? what do humans have to get done other than build robots to do our work? and after we’re done with the robot building robots we just coast.

    gas in san mateo before i left was 4.77. i saved the receipt and smiled remembering your posted receipt at like 2.29 when you first freaked out.

    the problem isn’t that people need gas, the problem is the rich capitalist answering to no “nationalized” control system. if you have 100 mil and get 3% that’s 3 mil profit a year. lets say the gov takes 2.9 mil of that in taxes…. you still have your 100 mil and $100,000 straight cash to live on for the year. $300/day. why would you work? why would you do anything? for a feeling of fulfillment? the only control the government has on the super rich is taken ALL of EVERYONES money away until the cries for communism starting coming from the people and then the government plays like it didn’t know it would happen. all the while i’m still hustlin you morons. capitalism is an inherently broken system, yet the only one a new country can be found on. then some chinese hackers figures out how to automate killing goombas in the grass all day, and getting a level 70 wizard faster than anyone else can, and then running around stealing everyones rupees. the whole system is dumb. instead of even talking about it, i just get as much shit as i can doing the least amount of anything. not only the spirit of capitalism, but something capitalism depends on by definition. a consumer who would rather pay less.

    if you had a jet sled that ran on water, and a beef tree in your backyard that grew steaks and charcoal grills… why do anything? why invent medicine? why sing a song? just so you can sit under your beef tree and eat a few more steaks, and then ride around on your water powered jet sled? no way… lets make everyone broke and then crush rocks and carry them from point A to point B, then team 2 carries them from point B to point A, and then everyone sleeps.

  2. it cost me about $120 to drive cross half the country towing everything i own. i could have paid $500 and it wouldn’t have made any difference. that would be like $15/gal. no one will ever freak out. the truth is, money has no real value, so you might as well say it cost 1090523509235/gal, or 0/gal. same difference.

  3. oh, i made it here ok 🙂

    oregon is a strange strange land. speed limit 65, everyone will go 65… no one speeds. then hit a construction zone every 10 miles or so and the limit goes to 50, but NO ONE slows down even though the “fines double” signs are everywhere. so they will go 15 over in a work zone, but not even 1 over on the open interstate. are they scared of driving over 65? do they think their gas milage gets that shitty over 65 so they stay slow? it made no sense to me. then they dont follow FCC guidelines and all the music is fuck this and fuck that…. then some of the rock stations are like “we don’t use profanity… * crash * *screech* *lighting* but you should listen anyways! LASER 103!” HUH!?#% these people are just weird. then… IT’S ILLEGAL TO PUMP YOUR OWN GAS. so odd.

  4. you are trusted to light that gas on fire to propel a 2,000lb machine at high speed, carrying a full tank of gas… but you can’t be trusted to hold the gas nozzle… i’m guessing so you don’t make a flame thrower and shoot your gas pumping neighbor. but you can wait until he’s done and run him over all the same. and in a world with no censors, having them becomes a selling point?! and speeding in work zones full of dudes (15 over is pretty big) but no speeding anywhere else. i bet pokajill lives in this state.

  5. no, don’t let the man who is stable enough to earn enough federation credits to afford the gas transfer it into the gas receptacle he owns… no, make the guy who ended up spending his days pumping gas do it. i’m sure he’s a lot less likely to flip out and start a fire party… especially when he has to think about why the drivers aren’t allowed to do this seemingly simple task all day long day in, day out.

    forcing the gas companies to hire more locals pretty much. these aren’t kids or retirees though… these are 30-50 year old men. career pumpers created by legislation.

    cal, when all the laws change in 7 years, are you going to have to relearn everything?

  6. and like every 20 feet on the interstate there is a no parking sign. then on the radio they are like, “why the fuck did we spend $110,000 on no parking signs? everyone knows you can’t park on the fucking freeway”… and then some asshole is like “yeah… because of the signs.”

    what do you do in oregon when you’re done fucking a midget?


  7. “money has no real value, so you might as well say it cost 1090523509235/gal, or 0/gal. same difference”

    Dude, I know you’re funny and all (it’s the hole-in-ones!) but seriously.. Seriously. What if you had to pay $20 every time you recharged your helicopters. I know you’d still do it and all, they’re that awesome, but eventually you’d say “fuck, it costs a lot to make these helicopters go.” Now replace ‘recharge’ with ‘fill up’ and ‘helicopters’ with ‘trip to Wisconsin Dells’.

    One time Cal ruined a Wisconsin Dells trip because he refused to take off his sandals.

  8. I think I’ll propose the ‘No Parking signs on freeways’ thing at the next Madison City Council meeting. Sounds like something they’d go for. Also, a ‘No Murders’ sign would be nice for my neighborhood– it’s been getting shifty around here lately.

  9. great depression 2: the depressioning. aka accidentally hitting the reset button.

  10. when i signed my lease here it was 30 pages and we had to sign and initial at least once on every page… usually like 3 times. there was one page devoted to “government regulation” and paragraph after paragraph it was pretty much “you agree to not break the law”. like if i didn’t sign this and then i broke the law, i could hold them liable for not declaring that i knew that i wasn’t supposed to break the law? i made the same “no murder” joke. because of that though one more timber man made a buck on a piece of paper and one more lawyer got to bill 2 hours work drafting the lease prototype. didn’t you see the 5th element? breaking stuff is being a true humanitarian.

  11. if recharging a helicopter cost $20, and that was somehow a crazy amount relative to the believed value of $20 at whatever time in history this happens at, then are helicopters super expensive too, or are they nearly free just to hook you on the gas? if living in a world where helicopters cost $20 to recharge meant i got free helicopters, i think i could juice out some cream on that deal.

  12. if 3 people were willing to pay $10 to recharge and of those 3 only 1 were willing to pay $20, then only a fool would charge $20. so if it goes to $20, then those 2 people have a responsibility to make the 3rd person regret not unionizing with them and holding out for the $10 price for the good of everyone. this would include throwing cals sandals schmeared with poop at their windshield. everyone wins, gets to go to wisconsin dells, and has $10 extra to spend on mini-golf and horrible tshirts.

  13. with gas it’s more like 100 people are willing to pay $1/gal. 90 people are willing to pay $1.50. 80 people are willing to pay $2.50. 70 people are willing to pay $3.50. 60 people are willing to pay $4. 50 people are willing to pay $5. so only a fool wouldn’t charge $5.

  14. I wish I would have been born around 1945. I could just be retiring now after enjoying the peak of the American empire. All of our disposable income was based on the relative cheapness of energy and food. I don’t want to come up with solutions. That sounds really hard.

  15. Can you cite that statistic on the price of flour? I think that baker spent all his money on hookers and old fashions and now he’s making shit up to account for the closed sign in his window. Where did your dad meet this hobo baker? Fish boil?

  16. “Where did your dad meet this hobo baker?”

    At an Overpriced Hooker Convention. Why?

  17. I should have made it clear that the flour story was anecdotal, and therefore not proof of anything. Scientist’s helicopters, however, are proof of EVERYTHING!

  18. And Cal’s contempt for Big Chief Go-Kart World is widely known and widely derided.

  19. you are lucky i wore sandals those go-karts are dangerous. two finals down two to go. madd’s not kidding about pumping gas… no self-serve in oregon it’s weird.

  20. nice post by the way… i liked the brewer mail bag one too… this is my favorite web site ever.

  21. i did some flour research… everyone says it went from $4 to $16, and it was because of a drought in australia. american farms either had their wheat swept up by the red cross and donated to “needy” nations, or the farmers switched to corn banking on ethanol. so really the price of gas caused it because it attracted would be flour providers to sell overpriced fuel instead. which of course drive the price of fuel down, but why drive if you can’t drive to a pizza hut and get a slice for under $600?

    i just put some rad deCALs on my water jet sled.

    here is how the revolution should go down… everyone just has to agree to start jumping people that piss them off, and also to join in if you don’t see a reason not to. someone selling gas for $5? don’t even consider their costs… just jump them. someone cuts someone else off on the interstate? everyone put your cars in park, then jump them. someone pays with a visa card holding up the line at the grocery store? jump them. even if it is 7 lanes over in the express and you have way over 10 items. jump them. everyone do it. they aren’t going to charge us all… there isn’t enough jail space or time… besides the police should be encouraged to join in. if a cop doesn’t join in, jump them.

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