Retirees can plug the oil leak - The Explorer: Voices

Retirees can plug the oil leak

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Posted: Wednesday, March 9, 2011 6:00 am

Ongoing uprisings in the Middle East have caused gas prices to begin spiking upward with no sign of a reversal in sight. Here we sit with no plan to offset this oncoming fuel price tsunami.

Personally, I hope we do run out of oil, right to the bone-dry bottom of the last barrel. That way the truth, or a clearer depiction of it than we now have, may emerge. We’ll also be forced to put alternative energy system projects into high gear and ultimately create vehicular power sources that quietly, unsmogingly function under the hoods of affordable production vehicles, not just a few over-priced and ultra-hyped models that suddenly disappear after several years.

I’m vehemently against fossil fuel; I’m simply fed up with price gouging at the nozzle end of the production line. I haven’t heard a plausible explanation of why gas prices soar moments after OPEC cuts oil production or some unforeseen fuel disruption emerges. Strangely, when the opposite news blares across the airwaves regarding a significant price per barrel reduction, overproduction or a glut of the stuff, the at-the-pump impact takes days and more often weeks. Then it’s nowhere close to the equivalent of what it cost us for the pleasure of using their “short supply” or reserves.

I’m psyched up for a monumental energy source alternative and have been for years. I recall an early ride in an electric motor vehicle. My favorite college professor invented one of the first electric cars suitable for mass production. He drove it around the campus for years without a glitch and smiled as he passed a gas station even though fuel was selling for a shocking 30-40 cents per gallon. It looked and performed comparable to combustion-powered vehicles, but it didn’t leak anything in the driveway or stink up the air.

One morning a stranger in a business suit carrying a briefcase rang the professor’s doorbell. He was an auto manufacturing representative from Detroit who came to make the professor an offer for the patent on his electric car, plus he wanted the actual car as part of the deal. Naturally, he promised that the corporate intent was to study the invention and eventually mass-produce it.

Inevitably, we all have a “price,” and ultimately the offer became too good for the professor to refuse, so he waved goodbye to his electric pride as it disappeared on a flat bed truck. That was over four decades ago and we’re still dinking around with alternative sources of power for automobiles with no viable mass-produced, other-than-gasoline choices rolling off the assembly lines.

Paradoxically, the alleged gas shortage of the mid-seventies comes to mind. I was stuck in Washington, D.C., at the time and dealing with a $2 purchasing limit on odd and even days, depending upon the last digit of my tag number. There had to be a better way, and a friend discovered it. He located a gas station 35 miles south of the beltway out in the middle of nowhere with prices about half what we were paying in town. The following weekend I chugged into that gas station on my last gallon. I asked the attendant, a man in overalls and well up in years, if he could fill up my tank. He quizzically responded, “Only if you can pay for it.” My tank was full for the first time in weeks. He told me he’d seen TV reports about some sort of gas shortage around the Capitol but didn’t know much about it. For him it was business and pricing as usual.

Again today our options for gaining viable political action on this matter remain bogged down in bureaucratic committees and swayed by lobbyists. Boycotting gas stations and carrying signs defiling oil companies merely frustrates the dissenters and the consumers. Many people shrug off costly fuel as “a sign of the times” and cite European prices versus our “cheap” pricing. So what? We live here.

I’m retired and have the time to make a stand. Today I’m buying gas as usual and charging it to my credit card, but it’ll be one dollar at a time. Twenty bucks used to fill my tank; today it’ll be closer to $40, which equals forty individual paperwork transactions. I’ll flood ‘em with receipts. Those oil tycoons can’t mess with us retirees without expecting serious consequences. With this paperwork pressure flowing their way I expect prices to plummet soon.

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