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Sunday, July 13, 2008

The High Price of Gasoline

Mr. & Mrs. I., loyal readers of the VOB and a young couple comprised of the sister-in-law of Bruck and the brother-in-law-in-law of Bruck (SILOB & BILILOB), whom, despite their tenuous association with a deranged blogger, Bruck holds in high esteem, visited Hawaii for their honeymoon several years ago. Running off to the airport, they made a perfect happy, starry-eyed, loving couple whose only real mistake up that point was Mrs. I.'s choice of suitcase.

Grandma H., GOSILOB (& GOWOB of course) was in from out of town for the wedding, and when she opened her suitcase to get dressed on the day after, she noted with alarm that it was filled with the clothes and accoutrements of the newly-appointed Mrs. I., therefore…! We still chuckle at the prospect of Mrs. I. looking for her swimsuit and sunblock and instead finding Grandma's flannels and Noxzema. Hopefully Mrs. I. will be able to laugh about it herself some day.

I was reminded of this comical episode during a recent workation in sunny HI. I managed to fit some R&R in between work, including a pathetic luau to which I referred in a previous dispatch. The irreproachable Mrs. Bruck joined me for about half of the trip and so we were able to enjoy the volcanic paradise together, wearing our own clothes.

Overall, I'd say HI is a nifty place. Not sure I'd go out of my way to live there but if Uncle Sam issued me permanent change of station orders to that locale, only a small number of wild horses would be required to drag me there. The weather is pretty nice all year - sunny, 70's & 80's, it rains occasionally but it's a very polite, unobtrusive rain that you don't even notice unless it's a monsoon. The tropical fruit there is fantastic, including fresh coconut, which is way better than anything you'll find in a grocery store in the midwest or eastern seaboard. BTW, coconuts falling from trees is enough of a public health hazard that they routinely remove the ripe coconuts from the palm trees on the street to prevent it (this according to a tour bus guide, and why would he lie?).

HI is fairly expensive, rivaling New York and southern CA for real estate prices, but it is possible to live decently on a professional salary or two. You'd just have to make certain sacrifices. The people with whom I was working all seemed pretty happy to be there. They do mention the tendency toward "island fever," a malady I started to suffer after about a week.

But that's not what I came here to talk about today. What I wanted to talk about is the price of gasoline.

It's too high.

Or is it?

Just how high is too high?

Does anyone remember the gas crunch of the 70's & early 80's? In 1981, the peak price of gas was $1.66/gallon. In today's (2007 actually) dollars, that's $4.92. So I think you'd have to agree that the media are being a bit disingenuous when they claim that gas prices are at record highs. We're close, but we're not at the record yet. But again, the question, how high is too high?

Let's say gasoline didn't exist. And then someone comes along and offers you a magic potion, a gallon of which, when poured into a certain machine, could move you, a few of your friends, and a fair amount of your personal junk 20 or 30 miles. How much would you pay for this mojo?

But, you say, gasoline does exist, and it has for umpteen years. And we've built our society around its abundance and affordability. This has worked for a long time, so long in fact, that few if any of us can remember a time when it wasn't so. So long, that we consider it our birthright, our heritage as the world's "chosen people." Notwithstanding our surprise to discover that the suppliers of this commodity don't see us in the same light, we're incensed that the standard rules of economics, price=demand/supply, applies in this case in such a way as to not favor us privileged citizens of the United States of Obama. The supply isn't necessarily changed, but demand is way up and therefore so are prices.

So it comes down to a question, not of how much you will pay, but how much will you buy, at these large prices. So far, it seems, about the same amount as before. The way I see it, there's no such thing as too high or too low, but simply a prevailing market price and an amount we're willing to buy at that price.

Meanwhile, to keep it in perspective, I was really thirsty during my layover in the LAX airport on the way back from HI. I paid $2.50 for a 16oz. bottle of water. That's $20.00/gallon. Even at a typical vending machine price it would be about $10.00/gal. For water, in a clear plastic bottle. Speaking of which, let's see a show of hands - how many of you have paid $5.00 for a fancy-pants cup of coffee at Starbucks? Even if it were a 16oz. cup, that would be $40.00 per gallon.

But Bruck, I don't use nearly as much bottled water and frou frou coffee as I do gasoline! True enough, but you also have to admit that these purchases are pretty much completely discretionary. $4.00 for a gallon of anything is starting to look like quite a bargain!

So what's the answer? Do everything in your power to reduce the price of gasoline. For that, you receive my undying gratitude, which, along with $5.00 will buy you a decent cuppa joe.

And one last thing - for those of you keeping track of the ever-expanding Bruck Empire: Hawaii.


  • At 11:36 AM, Anonymous Mr. I. said…

    I wanted to say thanks for making me laugh and remembering the G-MA suitcase episode. You should've posted the picture of SILOB modeling G-MA's robe.
    I just really needed a good laugh, because your former employer is bringing down the morale each and every day.

    BTW, HI was part of the Iler Empire 1st so we must share HI. Not sure about you but I also own the Pacific Ocean.

    Later Bruck.

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