Usually, when I get Gas Pains, it’s the intestinal kind...but this is no Disgusting Elisson-style Post about Flatulence. For once.
No, this is pain of the gasoline-driven sort, and it’s a pain that is familiar to almost all of us.
Seems like just a few weeks ago I was grousing about petrol prices bumping up above the $2.00 mark. Especially since I got dinged with the cost of refueling the monster U-Haul truck I used to transport the Crap o’ th’ Mistress up from Savannah. That was $2.089 a gallon...a $50 fill-up.
Within the last three days, the prices hereabouts have escalated dramatically, from $2.399 to $2.649, which is what I paid to gas up the car of She Who Must Be Obeyed this morning. Filling that tank cost over $37, a new Personal Best. Yeef.
Ah, the Great Corporate Salt Mine giveth, and the Great Corporate Salt Mine taketh away.
There’s no point in getting nostalgic. When I learned to drive, gasoline cost 32.9 cents a gallon - sometimes even less. You could buy a dollar’s worth of gas if you were short of cash. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to get you fifty miles down the road. But after the second oil shortage, I was paying $30 for a single tank of gas. (OK, it was a big tank. But, still!) And that was in 1979 dollars! Ouch!
Prices - both in current and in constant dollars - dropped throughout the 1990’s. As late as 1998, you could score a gallon of regular for as low as 87.9 cents in these parts. Only three years later, I was paying over $2.50 a gallon...but that was in New York, where people are accustomed to getting screwed over for the necessities of life. Typically, prices in the Atlanta area have tended to be on the low side, so I never complained.
The irony of all this is that gasoline is still a bargain, relatively speaking. If you look at what we pay for other useful liquids - like milk and water - gasoline is downright cheap. Remember, one gallon has enough chemical energy to push a nice heavy car anywhere from 15-30 miles. That’s a lot of work packed into a small volume.
It’s the rapid change in the price that leaves us gasping.
Even today, I won’t complain...much. I’m old enough to remember the gasoline crunches of 1973-74 and 1979, and those were no fun at all. Not only did prices skyrocket, but you couldn’t buy what you needed...and the result was the infamous phenomenon of the Gas Line. Not to mention rationing.
At least today, we can still buy what we want, at prices that are still well below what people in most other countries pay.
And we can kick ourselves in the ass for not creating a sensible National Energy Policy when we had the opportunity to do it without being under the gun. We can repent, at our leisure, for buying all of those Honkin’ Big SUV’s instead of efficient little cars.
It’s gonna get worse, people. China’s economy is growing, and they have a burgeoning middle class, all ready to compete with us for those Middle-Class Pleasures we have taken for granted. Like gasoline, and personal transportation devices to burn it in.
And there’s a shitload of those folks out there.