What part of last August did we not understand?
Surely you remember last August. A vague sense of unease over our busted gasoline pipeline mushroomed into outright panic on the hot Sunday night of Aug. 17 as station after station ran dry.
When we could find an open station, we sat for hours in long lines waiting to reach the pumps. At some stations, prices hit the stratosphere. Not everyone behaved well.
Then, after a few days, the tankers began arriving, the stations opened up and we hit the road again, pedal to the metal.
Now gasoline prices are soaring anew even though the pipeline hasn’t broken lately. Our response in general has been to call talk shows to whine about price-gouging and to rip up more square miles of desert for insanely remote developments and to go shopping for the latest testosterone-swollen SUVs, some of which are advertised on those same talk shows.
I got a kick out of the guy who was quoted in our paper last week screaming how much it costs to fill up his Cadillac Escalade. Your typical Cadillac Escalade costs about $55,000 and weighs almost 6,000 pounds. It gets, at most, 22 miles to the gallon, and that’s on the highway.
Where in the Constitution does it say people who buy vehicles like that are entitled to cheap gas for eternity?
I say cheap because in 1981 we were paying about $3 a gallon, in today’s dollars. And because, as of last week, our cousins in Europe were paying anywhere from $4.85 to $5.75 a gallon, measured in Uncle Sam’s greenbacks.
No wonder they hate us.
In truth, however, we can scream about gas prices until the Cardinals win a Super Bowl for all the good it will do. Some experts say things are never going to get much better because we are competing with the rest of the world for a finite resource. Some experts say things are about to get much worse.
In the latter category is Stephen Leeb, a nationally known investment genius whose latest book, “The Oil Factor,” says an energy shock of epic proportions lies just ahead.
“I believe the incipient energy crisis is going to turn our economy and the investment arena on its head and that the next decade or more will be among the most tumultuous in our history,” Leeb told an online discussion forum hosted by The Washington Post.
Leeb focuses on helping investors figure out where to put their money so they can profit from everyone else’s misery. But amid growing signs that $2 a gallon might soon look like the good old days, his warning resonates for the rest of us, too. It resonates especially in our far-flung East Valley.
That cheap house on the outskirts of Coolidge, only an hour from work in your land yacht, may not be such a bargain after all.