Fill ‘er up

Years ago, there was a TV ad — I think it was for the AMC Javelin or Gremlin automobile — in which a woman pulls into a gas station and the attendant (this really was many years ago), all oiled up from working on someone’s car (many many years ago), asks how much gas she wants.

“A dollar,” she says.

“A dollar?” he responds incredulously. “Are you sure you can use alllll thaaaat gas?”

She pauses for a moment and thinks and then says, “you’re right. Better make it…. a gallon.”

You don’t get it? You’re too young, then.

(I have searched in vain on YouTube for this commercial. If you find it, let me know, please.)

And now the news: The price of gasoline in the region jumped 20 cents in the last week, and it turns out that the country has less gasoline stockpiled than anyone thought.

The good news is the higher prices may be saving lives, according to a new study.

Minnesota, along with Missouri and New Jersey, still has the nation’s lowest gas prices.

  • brian

    I’ve always thought that higher gas prices aren’t entirely a bad thing. They are an incentive for people to be more fuel efficient and for the increased use and building of public transportation. It may even help with our obesity problem (more walking/biking). There would need to be programs to help out low income people and truckers, but otherwise I think $4.00 a gallon gas would be good for this country.

    One question I’ve never had fully answered:

    What are we going to do for plastic when we run out of oil?

    I’m sure there are alternative raw materials to make plastic out of… but we use a lot of plastic. Can we make all the needed kind of plastics from alternative materials?

  • bsimon

    “What are we going to do for plastic when we run out of oil?”

    corn starch. Some plastic utensils are already made of this material – and can be thrown in the compost pile, with food scraps.

    Oil is nothing more than decomposed plant matter that’s been subjected to a couple million years of pressure underground.

  • Tyler Suter

    Although I’m too young, I do get that joke and find it very entertaining.

    I agree with Brian in terms of high prices influencing our habits, but rising costs in this sector fall on the shoulders of the middle class (in terms of economic welfare). For that reason I do not agree with the gas tax (I’m interjecting that into this subject I guess) that we’ve just instituted. Now before anyone goes ballistic on me, let me explain that I think the gas tax charges us for driving rather than rewarding us for being effecient. I am a proponent for the sales tax on vehicles based on the vehicles fuel effeciency. If mr./ms. starch collar wants to drive his/her double-wide downtown to work everyday (when he/she has no need being met by doing so) then that person should pay more on the dollar than the person driving the geo metro; of course there must be exceptions for those who work in industries that require such a vehicle.

    Conjointly, I wouldn’t be apposed to even a weighted income tax or some sort of tax that would allow people to pay extra to drive 70 mph (in a designated lane) instead of 45 mph during rush hour. I just feel that the gas tax is trapping those who have already taken every step necessary to conserve as well as or in addition to those who do not have the option to commute via public transit.

  • Bob Collins

    It was interesting to hear Phil Krinkie on Midmorning yesterday respond to the question of whether there’s any tax his group would support. “Yes,” he said, citing a user “fees” as an example. Then he used transit as an example citing the amount of subsidization, and said riders should pay more of the actual cost.

    The irony, of course, is that it came on a show about the gas tax, and given that it is constitutionally dedicated to the cost of road and bridge maintenane and improvements, it is, in effect, a user fee.

    One idea from years ago that was — and still is –intriguing is the idea of an insurance tax paid at the pump. This would eliminate the premiums paid directly to the insurance companies and would make the premium based on how much you drive.

    There’s a lot of flaws with the idea, but there’s a lot of flaws with the current method, too.

  • Tyler Suter

    I’d never heard of anything like that, has that idea (insurance tax at the pump) fallen by the wasteside? I must know more!

  • brian

    “Corn Starch”

    I bought corn starch dog poop bags a few times and they were much stiffer than a regular plastic bag. Would it work for all the uses we currently use oil based plastics? Also, do we have enough corn starch to spare, given the current issues with food vs. ethanol production? I’m sure it will eventually be a viable option, I just think plastic should be part of the oil converation and I never hear anyone talk about it.

    “gas tax”

    I may be wrong… but I don’t think the increase in the gas tax has much to do with the increase in gas prices. I don’t think it is a big percentage of the price in general. It’s kind of like cigarrettes, where the majority of the price increases aren’t taxes but most people think they are.

    “Pay at the pump insurance”

    I think it would be tough to price that kind of insurance. Would the fairness gained by tieing insurance to how much you drive outweigh the fairness lost by not tieing insurance to how safe a driver you are? It is an interesting idea though.

  • Tyler Suter

    I like to lump topics together, what’s wrong with that?

    Anyhow, I know that the tax doesn’t contribute to actual increases in the price per barrel, and I know that the premium paid due to taxation at the pump is eclipsed by the actual fuel cost increases, but the tax is still relavent and substantial to those who budget down to the dollar.

  • bsimon

    “Also, do we have enough corn starch to spare, given the current issues with food vs. ethanol production?”

    No, but the magic isn’t in the corn, its in the process of converting one from of carbon to another. They use corn now because its so cheap & plentiful. (though less cheap this year than last)

    “I don’t think the increase in the gas tax has much to do with the increase in gas prices.”

    Considering the MN gas tax didn’t change for 20 years, and the new tax hasn’t yet been imposed, you’re probably correct.

    She pauses for a moment and thinks and then says, “you’re right. Better make it…. a gallon.”

    That’s silly. How far can you get in a Javelin or Gremlin on a gallon – 10 or 15 miles?

  • Bob Collins

    // budget down to the dollar

    I’d be very curious how many that is. And until I stop seeing people driving by me at 65 to 70 miles per hour in a 55 mile per hour zone, there’s no convincing me that anyone has gone over budget because of the gas tax.

    As I said a few weeks ago, the entire effect of the gas tax can be mitigated merely by slowing down closer to the legal speed limit.

    The fact is there IS a cost associated with providing the infrastructure to the drivers on which they can drive and the cost of providing that structure has gone up while the cost passed along to the users (by virtue of the tax paid) has not.

    But, anyway, as I said, none of the people on the same highway as me (I’m the old guy driving 55 over on the far right lane) are budgeting down to the penny.

  • Tyler Suter

    Maybe I’m in a bit over my head on this topic. But I do feel enlightened despite the bruised ego.

  • Bob Collins

    No reason to feel bruised, Tyler. You’ve made excellent points.

  • tyler suter

    Thank you Mr. Collins, but I wasn’t too disparaged, rather I was only recognizing my benighted approach.

  • GregS

    Considering the MN gas tax didn’t change for 20 years

    Why must gas tax RATES rise when gas tax revenues rise dramatically? For 18 years, gas tax revenues increased despite the static tax rate.

    It was not until 2005 that revenues failed to rise and then the DFL decides to dramatically raise the rate.

    They say gas taxes are dedicated taxes…. Uh-huh, but the people who say such things are the very people who can change such things.

    Can you hear the sound of the other shoe whistling toward the floor?