Friday, April 21, 2006

I Can Drive 55, Now

One foot on the brake and one on the gas, hey!
Well, there's too much traffic, I can't pass, no!
So I tried my best illegal move
Well, baby, black and white come and touched my groove again!
Gonna write me up a 125
Post my face wanted dead or alive
Take my license, all that jive
I can't drive 55! Oh No!
Uh!

Sammy Hagar, 1984
I Can't Drive 55
Oil Reaches New High of $75 a Barrel
Crude-oil prices reached a new record of $75 a barrel Friday amid concern about Iran's nuclear ambitions and declining U.S. gasoline stocks.

U.S. pump prices also kept rising, with the average price of a gallon of unleaded regular gasoline at $2.855, up 3 cents from a day earlier and more than 60 cents higher than a year ago, according to AAA's daily fuel gauge report.

Analysts say oil prices are likely to climb higher in the weeks ahead as worries grow about how international pressure on Iran, OPEC's No. 2 oil producer, will affect its crude output. Rebel disruptions of oil production in Nigeria also pose a risk to world supplies.

Traders also worry that gasoline supplies may not meet summer demand after seven straight weeks of drops in domestic gasoline stocks, which are now at their lowest level since November.

I paid over $60 for 20 gallons of gas yesterday. I bought my gas at a local Walmart in two transactions. The first was with the Walmart Visa because it dropped the price per gallon by 3 cents (what a joke). When I hit $50, the pump automatically stopped. I tried another transaction immediately after with the same card and it wouldn't take the card. I then used my other Visa to get the other $10 in gas to fill my tank.

During the time of the double-nickel speed limit gas was cheap and plentiful. We dropped to 55 when Nixon passed the NMSL in response to the OPEC oil embargo in 1973 to save oil. It lived on well beyond the embargo because of highway 'safety' concerns. Back then I could afford to buy all the gas I needed on the much lower salary I was earning at the time. And this when I was living in Atlanta and commuting was de rigeur. I used to rail against the 55 mph speed limit along with my contemporaries and I sped everywhere I went, because the only time it cost me anything is if I got a ticket for speeding (and I only got one of those the whole time I was living in Atlanta).

Now I spend more on gas in one fillup than I spent in two months. That was because I was driving Honda Civics. I kept driving Civics until I got married in 1984, then eventually switched to vans. My wife Judy drove a 1982 Nissan Sentra MPV, the first Sentra to be sold in the US. It got a real-life 50mpg on the highway. My Civic got 45. Gas was cheap and cars efficient.

Now flash forward to 2006. She drives a Kia Sedona van and I drive a Kia Sorento compact SUV. Both vehicles get 22mpg. That's less than half what Judy and I got 22 years ago. The only good thing to say about the van is that it's paid for. I still owe a year on the Sorento. And I'm already looking at high-mileage alternatives, such as the Toyota Prius, Toyota 2006 Rav4 with a four-cylinder engine, and other small-engine high-mileage vehicles that have reasonable interior space and are inexpensive to buy. I commute 50 miles/day. I fill up once/week. If I could increase my highway mileage to say, 30 (the 2006 Rav4), I would be over 25% more efficient, and save $16/fillup, assuming I filled up every week like I currently do. Going up to 40 mpg would nearly cut my fuel costs in half on the one vehicle. That translates to $100/month or more, which is nothing to sneer at.

The bigger problem is the fuel surcharge from Florida Power. More than half my power bill every month is due to the fuel surcharge. Between gas for my cars and Florida Power, the steep rise in fuel is eating me up. It's now to the point where alternative power for home and transportation are affordable, if for no other reason than to save real significant sums of cash. The economic incentive to save and move beyond oil has arrived with a vengeance. I just hope I can get through this period.

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