Gas Wars

With gas now running almost $3.70 a gallon now, I’m really starting to feel the pain.  You know it’s getting bad when your kids start complaining about how gas prices are cutting into their disposable income.  Of course, I’ll probably look back at this post in a couple of months, when gas is $4.25 a gallon, and laugh at myself.

At some point in the last couple of years, it appears a few bright young accountants in the oil industry figured out that the laws of supply and demand don’t apply to gasoline in the same way as other commodities.  People in our society can (and probably should) cut back on food, they can cut back on water use, but they can’t significantly reduce gasoline consumption on their own initiative, because it’s tied directly to income.  People have to go to work, or they can’t eat.  At all.  People also can’t cut back on most traveling for errands, because they have to bring food into their homes, go to the doctor and dentist, etc.  There’s a certain minimum amount of traveling by personal auto that simply must be done to survive, unless you live in the heart of an urban area with ample public transportation and all services within walking distance.  Most people don’t.  There’s also the hidden transportation cost of bringing our goods and services to the marketplace or wherever they’re needed, another cost dutifully passed along to the consumer.

As a result, the oil companies can jack up the price of gasoline as far as they care to, and people won’t stop buying simply because the price exceeds the conjunction of supply and demand.  They will pay up to and beyond their last cent, because otherwise, there will never be another last cent.   Market forces aren’t rational in a survival situation.  Economists blithely tell us just to use less gasoline, but in the absence of viable alternatives (useful public transportation/alternative fuels) or massive relocation of employees next door to their workplaces, we simply can’t.

Meanwhile, I can’t even take advantage of what public transportation there is in my locality, since the busses don’t run where I need to go.  They literally run everywhere I don’t need to go, and almost completely bypass my community, though it’s ostensibly a county-wide system. 

Yeah, carpools are a nice idea, if you happen to live next to 3-4 people who work in the same part of town you do, on the same schedule.  Good luck.

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