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Article Archive >> Community

Daze of My Life: Buy Low, Drive High

Daze of My Life
Buy Low, Drive High

I did something with my wife, Dina, the other day that I haven't done in a very long time, I filled up her car with gasoline for under $25, and that's with the reserve fuel light on!. Meaning her car wasn't merely low on gas, it was be-low, with very few miles to spare before low was empty and the side of the road was in our sights. A sight that, due to the reduction in the price of a gallon of gasoline (regular was $1.79 at my local service station this morning), I won't be seeing anytime soon since I can afford to buy before the fuel light illuminates.
However, if I am to stop - and then write - outside my own selfish joy, I suppose I must be concerned about why the price of gasoline is so low; concerned that business is so challenged, shall we say, nation and worldwide; worried that unemployment is increasing, nation and worldwide; and understanding that the declining consumption of fossil fuels are all less than encouraging signs. Signs that the economic bottom has still not been reached and that consumers can't even tolerate the current price (presuming of course, that if the oil companies could charge more and still sell more, they would). I guess, if I understand correctly, if I was paying more, it would be because consumers/businesses are consuming more (and presumably can afford to pay more) and consuming more means the economy is growing and the price would likely increase to reflect the increasing demand (Capitalism at work). And increased demand is a good thing, right?
The cumulative effect for me though, at this moment in time seems to be, newfound money. Money that is now available after gassing and heating up that only a few short months ago was not available. This change gives me more money to spend, but not money to spend on necessities, rather money to spend on "discretionaries." And the more money consumers have to spend on "discretionaries," the more money is spread around and it's that spreading around that makes the world go 'round (at least in my house).
Still, I can't hide my glee at the notion of cheap - relatively and comparatively - gasoline even though intellectually I have come to understand that if "things" weren't so bad economically-speaking, gasoline and to a lesser financial degree, home heating oil, wouldn't have to be so low in order to find buyers for the oil from which these products are refined.
Nevertheless, as bad as those "things" are, I can't imagine how much worse it would be for consumers if the price of gasoline and/or home heating oil were to return anywhere near their '08 peak. But I suppose that couldn't happen unless there were actual buyers increasing their demand, which, with a slowing, maybe even contracting world economy, there simply doesn't appear to be. As such, since many consumers/businesses can't afford the price of gasoline/home heating oil at its present level, it seems unlikely to rise appreciably so I suppose I can keep smiling, especially so if I still have a job.
However, if something dramatic were to happen to the supply, then that would be another story, literally, and probably another column or two as well.

Kenneth B. Lourie is a regionally syndicated columnist who resides in Burtonsville, MD.

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