Pumping It Up – And Up
Alright, this is getting ridiculous. On Sunday morning two weeks ago I filled the tank in my truck before driving down to visit our son in San Diego. I was more than a bit peeved that the lowest price I could find along Foothill was $3.79 a gallon. Silly me. Only four days later, I filled my tank again. The same station was now charging $3.89 for the same gas. I was not happy. Again, silly me.
As it turns out, those were the good old days. Because the very next morning I drove by the station and the price had gone up another 10 cents overnight to $3.99. Seriously? Once again I drove past the same station later on that afternoon and – you guessed it – the price of a gallon of unleaded gas had jumped another 5 cents. A nickel higher in just a few hours.
Only two weeks ago, the media was abuzz with reports that gas would “likely” rise to $4 a gallon by Memorial Day. Good call, people. We’re already there. They must be using the same imperfect prognosticators who come up with the your-guess-is-as-good-as-mine-stick-a-finger-in-the-air weather forecasts. (Unlike CV Weekly’s own dependably accurate and reliable Sue Kilpatrick, of course.) When these same folks now tell us that we could see $5-per-gallon prices by summer we should be worried. Or petrified. I won’t be surprised if we roar past the $5/gallon milestone by Memorial Day.
So why is the price of gasoline soaring when there is an acknowledged glut of oil on the world market? There are many reasons; some we can’t do a thing about, but several we can. I won’t travel down that road this week, however. There will be plenty of time for that discussion as the cost continues to climb and the pain at the pump metastasizes throughout our dangerously fragile economy.
The cost of a gallon of gas is as much a factor of life in southern California today as our frequent drought conditions, traffic jams, overcrowded schools and immigration issues.
It wasn’t always this way. I’ve lived in the Crescenta Valley long enough to remember many intersections along Foothill Boulevard with a gas station on all four corners. Station attendants (yes, they really had such a thing) would not only “check under the hood” while your tank was being filled, but also clean your parent’s front windshield with a spray bottle of glass cleaner and the rag in their pocket.
As if that level of customer service wasn’t enough to entice you to fill up at one station over another, stations gave away freebies with every tank of gas. At our house, we had full sets of drinking glasses, dishes and lots of other goodies given to us simply for filling the tank in our family car. Sigh.
If you wanted to get out of your car (you certainly didn’t have to) you could run into the service station office and get a free roadmap of the area. Although I realize that with Smart phones and GPS apps, few drivers would even know how to read a printed map (much less fold one back up) today.
Obviously, a lot has changed over the years. Even though our cars are more efficient than ever before, on the whole we drive farther and more often for work and pleasure. There are more of us on the road than ever before. And the cost and availability of energy has become a political tool (or weapon, if you will) more than ever before.
As I was wrapping up this column to make deadline, a news item came across about a major oil refinery “blowing up” near the U.S./Canada border several days ago. Apparently, it’s still burning and the newsreader said that the crippled refinery supplies much of the gasoline used in southern California.
Buckle up, folks. This is gonna get even uglier real fast.
If I can still afford the gas, I’ll see you ’round town.