Saturday, May 24, 2008

Gas pains

Just when I think Jeremy and I are real people living in the real world, something happens to enlighten me.

I filled up the other day at Costco and the person before me had left their receipt in the machine. Here is their receipt:

And here is ours:

In case you can't read them, the person at the pump before us spent $81.21 (to fill, I presume, or hope), and we spent $28.78, which is actually one of our more expensive "fills" ever. To be fair, for us, "fill" is a loose term because we never let our gas tank get completely empty, so it's more like 2/3-of-a-tank fill.

In any case, yikes. I think I could work up some energy to be upset about gas prices if my wallet was actually feeling it as much as Mr. $81.21. As it is, we probably fill up 2 - 3 times a month and our car (a lovely 2004 Toyota Corolla S) gets awesome gas mileage.

How much is gas where you are? How much does it cost you to fill up? Are you mad as heck and not going to take it anymore, or largely indifferent, or planning to move to Europe or the Middle East or Asia where they have planned, public-transportationable communities, or what?

(And am I the only one who personally remembers when gas was around $0.97/gallon? That was at the cheap-o Arco station, of course, whose policy was to hire only quasimodos to fill your tank (this was in Oregon). If you wanted uniformed, non-skeezeball service, you had to go to the Texaco up the hill and pay 7 - 10 more cents/gallon.)


Lilianne and Jason Wright said...

We are definitely feeling the strain of gas. Since Jason has been at the Veteran's Hospital this month for his rotation, if I want the car that day, we put around 60 miles on our car. Now, as you can imagine, this has us paying up to wazoo for gas. I think the most expensive fill up we've had with our 2006 Corolla was $42, and that was when it was bone dry.

Jason and I were thinking about the time when we'll actually have to own a bigger car...and to fill it, it WILL cost us around $80, presuming the prices stay the same as they are now. YIKES!

Anyway, we have definitely felt the higher gas prices and we're not even "real" people yet!

Liz Johnson said...

Gas in Murray is 3.57/gallon, although in South Bend it has hit $4/gallon. And every single time I fill up, I swear under my breath. I HATE IT. I wish public transportation were more available (and people didn't freak out over government subsidies for it) in the areas I live. I walk a lot more these days. Arrrrrrrrrgh.

Suzanne Bubnash said...

I filled up yesterday for $3.71 per gallon (Beaverton, Oregon) & that was a deal. Fred's posted price was $3.81 but I got my 'loyal customer' ten cent per gal discount. Most places in town are @ $3.95 so I suspect this was my last under-$4 fill, maybe ever. The good ol USA has enjoyed low gas prices for years; now we're catching up to the rest of the modern world.

Because I've always been careful about combining trips, walking / cycling to do simple errands, and taking MAX to the airport or downtown, am not sure if I can cut back on fuel usage much.

What hurts as much as the gas price itself is the price of everything else that will be shooting up--food, plane tickets, and just about anything else we buy that's trucked in.

Jennifer said...

Regular gas just went over $4 yesterday here in Tustin, CA. I'm sure areas around us hit it sooner though. I'm trying to take more walks to close places like the library, but it's more for the exercise and to enjoy the good weather. I hate to say it, but gas prices have yet to change anything we do.

Ashley said...

It is $3.61 here (Orem, UT)...Ben is driving an average of 150 miles a day, luckily Ben's work pays for the gas. We have never been so glad that our car gets an average of 35 miles to the gallon.
We have been using this to our advantage, we put the gas on our credit card that gets cash back and then receive a check from Ben's company. We would really be feeling the crunch if we weren't able to do this.

sarah said...

It was $3.59 a few days ago when I filled up here in Rock Springs, WY. We have to drive everywhere here anyway so the prices haven't affected our travel much. I remember the day gas went over 99 cents and my mom couldn't believe it could get so expensive!

Jeremy Palmer said...

I love reliable public transportation! I enjoyed kicking back and reading on the metro in Moscow, taking trains in Western Europe, and $.10 shuttle buses in Damascus. It's not just the cost savings - it's that I can read and work while someone else takes me where I need to go. It seems that people who drive everywhere themselves are wasting time as well as gas and money. Why drive when I can kick back and read a book or surf the internet on my iphone? Alas, I am only dreaming about actually owning an iphone. Bridget says I can purchase one when I get a real job.

Here is a question to think about: what would happen to the U.S. and/or world economy(ies) if everyone began to live like we do? Would it strengthen an economy or weaken it? Does frugality harm or heal an economy? I'm just an applied linguist so I don't know...but I am curious.

Eevi said...

Troy and I spent about 35 dollars to fill our little Zion when it's almost all the way empty. and we get about 35 miles/gallon. Our mazda takes about 45 bucks to fill if it's all the way empty. I have a bad habit of letting the tank get almost all the way empty. Here in Finland, gas prices are 8 dollars a gallon so that puts things in certain perspective. And that is why we ride the tram to the city and love the fact that we can walk to places here in Helsinki.

p.s Bridget, I already had some Fazer chocolate and i will bring you some:)

Anonymous said...

We're definitely noticing that it costs more to fill up our tank. However, we have a small car (2004 Corolla LE), and we fill it up maybe twice or three times per month. I ride a bus to work, and that definitely helps. I would most likely be doing that anyway, though. Driving (especially in crowded areas) stresses me out, and I'd rather have someone else worry about the traffic. I'm hoping, probably in vain, that the spikes in gas prices might spur greater development of public transportation systems.


Shannan said...

In Salem, OR, the costco price is about $3.70 gallon. I have a minivan so to fill up my tank is about $65.00. Fortunately, I only fill it about twice a month and my husband only fills about once every four months for a cool $30/tank. We live very close to his work and I try not to drive if I can walk.

Camille said...

The summer I got my driver's license (good ol' 1998) I remember gas being under a dollar. The cheapest price I can think of was 89 cents a gallon--what a steal!

Anonymous said...

The monetary savings from using public trans are great but as Jeremy says, the use of time is a huge factor too. When I go downtown or to the airport on the MAX I do a lot of reading, then step off the train without having had the stress of driving or finding a parking spot. If every city had a decent public trans system it would do a lot to improve people's state of mind and mood. As for the economy--the oil companies would suffer.

Here in PDX there are actually people who don't own cars--obviously they are usually single people & young. There was a newspaper article one day about a guy who, to prove it could be done, moved from one apartment to another across town entirely by bicycle. His friends helped him rig up a way to move his furniture via bicycle!


Nancy Heiss said...

We are moving to the Middle East. Not necessarily to avoid gas prices.

When we get back (if we decide to come back) we're planning on buying a scooter. I don't drive, anyway, so Rachel and I regularly walk pretty much anywhere within a two mile radius of our house. On occasion we will go 4 or 5 miles out and back.

We're just happy that Utah is expanding TRAX. It seems it's kind of a catch 22. No one rides the bus/train because you have to wait forever and they hardly go the transportation companies can't build more stops, etc. because they have no money.

I definitely am a fan of public transportation, just not here. It is impossible to get anywhere.

Nancy Heiss said...

"Alas, I am only dreaming about actually owning an iphone. Bridget says I can purchase one when I get a real job."

Jeremy, I told Andrew the same thing...

Bridget said...

There really is a catch-22, isn't there? In Tucson, it's that only the crazy and/or transient people ride the bus. So "normal" people don't want to ride the bus. But if us normals just got over it and rode the bus, then we'd take the system back from the transients.

Same for what Nancy mentioned. If more people used it, the system could become very user-friendly. But it won't be user-friendly until there's a big enough loyal rider base.

Nancy, I don't know if it's just in comparison with Tucson, but I thought the UTA system was awesome. We lived for a few months without a car in American Fork but worked/went to school in Provo and used public transpo exclusively. It was awesome. But it might just be a case of if the public transpo goes where you need to go, you love it. If not, you're out of luck. :)

Kristen said...

I'm a tad ashamed to admit that I rarely think about how much gas costs except for when everyone else is complaining about it. That's the trouble with credit cards, I suppose, because I'd be "that guy" who left the receipt behind. I don't usually even look at my receipt after filling up. Maybe it's to avoid the sticker shock effect. My Audi gets great mileage (35mpg) but our Yukon doesn't. My husband has to drive a ton for work, and he doesn't get paid any extra specifically for gas or mileage, which I hate. I heard a discussion once about how gas is actually one of the cheapest liquids we consume. If you think about it, Aquafina bottled water is $8.00 per gallon, and Chanel No. 5 is $39,680.00 per gallon. Of course, presumably no one consumes either of these or most other liquids in the same quantity or with the same dependence as gasoline. One of my closest friends (I wish), Dennis Miller, once ranted that the only way we'll ever be free from our dependence on oil is if it were to run out. So he suggests that we all drive as far and as often as we can, in gas-guzzling SUVs, and do our part to use it all up. So that's how I'm "going green." (Joke. Sort of.) The thing is, there are other options for power, but changing the entire infrastructure upon which our society is built is no simple undertaking. And then there is the fact that some alternatives are not as squeaky-clean as their proponents would like you to think (Ethanol, I'm looking at you). The ridiculous gas prices may, however, be attributed squarely to the tree-hugging hippies. Yep, some of the same environmentalists who walk or bike everywhere are the ones urging gas prices into this unthinkable realm, by hindering the use of our own domestic resources. The United States has rich oil resources, hundreds of billions of barrels, which if tapped could go a long way in stabilizing the US trade deficit, in addition to cutting the price of our oil in half. The environmental impact must be considered, of course, but could a balanced approach be developed? Much like modern forest management renders fear of squandered lumber resources unfounded? I don't know the answer of course, but I still like Dennis Miller's idea. For now, I'll try not to leave my ignored receipt behind at the gas station, lest it be posted on the world wide web by some intellectual blogger. :)

Lark said...

Gas prices in Vegas are about the same or 10 cent more. So I filled up our Ford Explorer the other day and spent $70! I almost stopped breathing. Its getting really bad. Meanwhile, I still have to drive everywhere thanks to no great public transportation like all other countries. I don't think it will ever happen either because Americans love their freedom too much. We (well, not me, but some Americans) also love "toys" and cars fill that category.
Also, have you heard about the affect of Ethanol on developing countries? It has jacked up the price of corn so much in developing countries that some people can't afford to buy corn to make their tortillas so they are resorting to other traditional foods like mud (yes! true! I think it was in Haiti. I should look it up again - its been awhile so my facts are not totally accurate.) Just another thing to think about in relation to these rising gas prices.

Mikael said...

I am glad you posted about this. Because frankly, I am FREAKED out by gas prices lately. It costs me $45 to fill up our 2002 VW Passat, and we most always let it go completly empty. I fill it up almost every week, especually now that I am driving to my parents a lot to have them watch Makenzie.
I am scared by how fast they are rising, and I hope, in the near future, to not drive as much. I hate gas!!!!!!
I remember right after 9/11 the gas was under a $1. It cost me about $7 to fill up my Toyota Tercel. I drove clear from Provo to Disneyland on $7!!! Too bad those days are gone forever.

Sarah Rose Evans said...

It costs me 55 dollars to fill up our Honda-- and now that we've moved into our house, Eddie can't walk to work anymore. I'm trying to talk him into organizing a carpool. I never thought I would miss the filthy, hot, smelly, rat-infested subway in NY, but I do. And Jeremy had a good point: you can tune out the rat corpses on the tracks if you're reading a good book.

Hareega said...

I used to fill my 2002 Lancer for 22, now I pay about 38. The cost has gone up about 50 dollars a month.
It's frustrating, but I'm not suffering from as much as many Americans or people in the rest of the world are, so I can't complain

dave said...

You pose an interesting question Jeremy. In the short term, I imagine that the U.S., or any, economy would be harmed in the aggregate if everyone were to stop spending money on private transportation and instead travel frugally by public. I'm entirely unsure of what the long-term economic effects would in fact be.

Regarding the short term, the oil companies would of course suffer. As would the private car manufacturing companies, the steel manufacturing companies that supply the car manufacturers, the gas station companies, the asphalt making companies and road construction companies (presumably fewer individual roads/driveways would be required to be built and/or kept in top repair), and so on down the line. In each case the employees of, and the investors in (including most pension funds that are responsible for nearly everyone's retirement accounts to some degree), each such company would also suffer a reduction in wealth/loss of employment, thereby contracting the economy (gross oversimplification, I know).

This would be offset somewhat by the increased production necessary to expand the public transportation systems, but in the aggregate less money would likely be funneled towards private transportation and support services simply because of the idea illustrated by the exmaple that it takes a lot fewer resources to hall 100 people on one bus/train than it takes to build and upkeep 100 cars.

Of course none of this is to say that public transportation shouldn't be more widely used for environmental, aesthetic, or any other such reason. But it does seem to me that such an action by everyone would hurt the economy in the short run (keep in mind the whole mantra of recent tax rebates, etc.: spending more now helps the current economy; accordingly, spending less/more frugally has the opposite effect in the short term).

As for the longer term, whether such decreased spending on non-public transportation hurts the economy overall would largely depend on how people/society would allocate resources that would otherwise have been spent in the short term on transportation. If the resources that would have gone into non-public transportation were to be invested in ways that bring about even greater economic growth, then in the long run the economy would be helped.

The answer to this issue really depends on how good we are as a nation at producing non-public transportation goods vs. how good we are at producing whatever other things we would instead choose to use our foregone non-public transportation resources towards in your hypothetical situation (the law of comparative advantage). We're probably not as good as a nation, for example, at producing cars as certain other countries are, but if we plow the money we would have spent on making those cars anyway into something even less economically efficient - like growing watermelons in northern Alaska in greenhouses- then in the long run our economy would probably have benefitted more by leaving those resources in the private transportation industry.

This of course leaves aside the issue of subsidies and how they distort this whole process (thereby resulting in our ridiculous national over-production of things like sugar, which are more efficiently grown in Brazil), but I digress. And again, it may be valid to decide to forego economic progress benefits - and incur the costs of economic regression - for other, non-economic reasons, but that is an entirely seprate debate to what I understand you to have been specifically questioning.

Anyway, that's a pretty simplified picture, and I apologize for the length. Work's pretty slow today and I'm kind of bored.

Shannon said...

Actually, contrary to common belief, gas is not cheap throughout the Middle East. Even Arabs, it would appear, don't get the "Arab price" from their neighbors. Everyone is an ijnabi when it comes to oil profits. In Jordan we're paying the equivalent of about $3.50 a gallon for unleaded gas.

Bridget said...

I think Jordan is one of the worst as far as gas prices go. I remember in Syria in 2004-2005 it was around 50 cents/gallon (7 lira per liter, if you feel like doing the conversion). But I'm sure it's gone up now. I heard they even doubled the service van fare. Scandalous!


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