Thursday, March 08, 2012

Gas Pulls Ahead

A few days ago, when I filled the family flivver up in beautiful downtown Plainwell, MI, a gallon of regular cost $3.99.  Here comes $4 gas. Can $5 gas be far away?

My latest gas tab was $52.51.  I bought my first car, a 1929 Model A Ford, back in the early 1950s for $50. Even in its old age, the Ford was a dependable vehicle.  I drove it for about a year and sold it for $55. Nothing approaching a fifty dollar bill was needed to fill it up.  Gas sold for 26 cents a gallon back then.

There were no self-service gas stations, at least where I lived.  Attendants pumped your gas to order.  They also cleaned your car’s windshield and checked the air pressure in the tires.  Those services were free.  I don’t recall seeing anyone giving a tip to an attendant, so it’s fair to assume tipping was nonexistent or at least infrequent.

We young bucks often collected nickels, dimes, and quarters from our buddies, bought a “dollar’s worth’” of gas, and spent a long evening “cruising the drag.”  That was another way to say we were trying to pick up girls who might be walking down the town’s main street. We weren’t very successful, but we were persistent.  We logged a lot of miles.

Some Model A's Still Cruise
Transportation costs certainly have escalated, but they’ve not risen equally.  At the time I bought my well-used Ford for $50, you could get a nice, new family sedan for $2,000.  We bought our nice, new family sedan a few years ago for $21,000.  Do the math.  The modern machine cost 10.5 times what one went for 60 years ago.

Doing the math for gasoline, we find the price has increased more than 15 times over the same six decades. 

Those Canadians, Mexicans, and Nigerians who pump most of the “liquid gold” we use and those Arabs who set the world prices are doing a good job of picking our pockets.  Maybe they finally caught on after observing the machinations of wealthy Texas families on television.

Unfortunately, it’s more likely that oil supplies have started a downward spiral throughout the world. We probably are going to see huge price increases as populations continue to explode and industrialization advances to serve the new hordes of people.   

Put on your hiking shoes, and get that old bicycle out of the garage.  The heyday of the automobile as the centerpiece in American life soon will start fading away.  It may be a great time for innovation.  Would “cruising the drag” on a bicycle built for two (or even a low-powered motor scooter) prove attractive?

Don’t despair, though.  The U.S. has huge coal reserves and recently found ways to extract a whole lot of natural gas. We also are finally fully engaged in developing vehicles powered entirely or mostly by electricity.  The future may be brighter than it appears right now.


schmidleysscribblins, said...

Buses, I rode buses for years. Then the city built our Metro and I rode that for years. Mass transportation is where its at I think.

BTW are you sure you are in Michigan? Dianne

Dick Klade said...

I just double-checked, and found I surely am in Michigan. Agree that mass transit should play a much bigger role in the future. Hard to "cruise the drag" in a bus, though.

joared said...

In my youth when we lived in town I rode city buses, then Trailways when we went to another state and lived near a lake.

Recall going to an Ohio gas station with my much older bro in the '40s when he bought 25 cents worth of gas for his Model T (or A?) with a rumble seat.

In Ohio, later in AZ in the early '70's our auto budget was $50/mo. which was gas for 2 cars, auto ins., and routine auto upkeep.

I envy your gas price. We're paying $4.35 -- on our way to $5 here in northeast L.A. County. Yuk!

We have had to pump our own gas for years now. Very few stations offer repair shops -- have converted to mini-stores. Makes me most unhappy in my older age as I really want and need the full service you describe.

Kay Dennison said...

I just put $30 worth in Miss Ruby whose tank was pretty low and now there's a half tank. Fortunately, these days that will last me a while as I'm gonna be staying home mostly after my surgery.

Kay said...

Hello Dick... Just wanted to let you know I'll give you the specifics of my cameras as soon as I'm more settled. We just got back from Maui and I'm all wiped out! It's hard to keep up with the young ones.

Kay said...

By the way, gas was $4.59 on Maui!!!

Sightings said...

When I was a kid the price of a gal. of gas was just about the same as a pack of cigarettes. Both about 35 cents. Now a gal. of gas costs $4, but cigarettes are over $8!

I've given up smoking. But I still drive.

JHawk23 said...

I find I'm not much bothered by the recent upsurge in gas prices. As one of the few one-car families remaining in America, my wife and I have usually been pretty good about planning our trips and seldom drive more than 150 miles in a typical week.

There was no doubt in my mind when we decided to destabilize Iraq in 2003 that gas would go up. If the result of that war can be to help switch us to better mileage and alternative fuels, that might be the one silver lining of that ugly unnecessary war.

Kay said...

Hi Dick! It's me again. The cameras I use presently are both Canons. My tiny camera that I always keep in my backpack is PowerShot SD890IS. (Digital ELPH). The larger one is the Power Shot SX39 IS. It's got a 35X optical zoom. I like it. :-)

Kay said...

Oops! I meant SX 30IS.

Dick Klade said...

JHawk: We're with you. We went to one car three years ago. No problems with that move at all.

Kay: Thanks. Your info will help with my camera shopping.

Big John said...

$4 per gallon gas ! Wow ! Lucky old you, Dick.

Here in the UK it's nearer $10. It costs me around $100 to fill my little Nissan.