THE GAS PUMP – Look at the prices twirl like cherries and red 7s on the face of a Louisiana slot machine. How much are you paying at the pump? Too much, and as economists like to point out, the more we pay for gas the less we have left over for Lotto tickets and a chaw of Red Man.
For us, this price escalation is a two-edged MasterCard. We have to pay more, but then Texas, oil capital of Texas, gets more out of the boom than say, Vermont, no matter what our business is. As the late Glenn McCarthy once told me, “Son, we’re ALL in the oil business.” Only he said, “the awl bid-ness.” In addition, south Texas is benefiting from something new in the industry called fracking. I’m not sure what this means, but I understand it’s been banned at Baylor.
None of this Texas togetherness eases the shock as I fill up my car’s gas tank because, no, I’m not in the oil business except as a customer, which is why I feel like my pocket is being picked. So I have come up with several ways to cut down on my gas bill. (Incidentally, by “gas” I am referring to gasoline, not to the nauseous fumes mixed with chopped celery which power those effete brie-and-wine environmentally correct cars that look like a Munchkin’s phone booth.)
Here are my tips: I always try to drive downhill, usually that’s south, possibly with a strong wind to my back. Being towed is always a help. I keep my car’s weight to a minimum, starting by cleaning out my trunk. Take out my bowling ball collection, any old Mafia snitches, sacks of slugs for the toll roads and that anvil I never got around to converting into a lamp for the den. They call that round thing a “spare” for a reason: I don’t need it. Keep my own weight to a minimum, too, especially if my seat belt is tighter than Boris Yeltsin at a vodka tasting. Look for other items to pitch. Do I really need a backseat? Anchors were invented before brakes.
Look for the cheapest gas. I found the lowest prices at a Shamrock station in Marfa. Don’t worry, it was down hill. My wife and I both drive Lexuses (Lexi? Lexxus? Lex Luthor?) which have the gas mileage equivalent to that of an M1 Abrams tank and slightly better than those Hummers the size of a ZIP code. Instead of miles to the gallon, it’s more like gallons to the mile. My other solutions are to drive less, bundle my errands, and car pool. This means completing my Christmas shopping by August, taking in my dry cleaning annually and car pooling with people who are not going where I need to go. This last step requires a lot of follow-up cab rides, but really cuts down on my own driving.
It is a known fact that gas expands in heat and contracts in cold, so you get more gas when you pump at lower temperatures. I only buy gas in January. Another step towards handling the high price of gas is the reverse of NIMBY – Not In My Back Yard. I favor PIMBY. Please In My Back Yard. I’m trying to have an oil well or two next to the pink flamingoes by the coyote traps. Ah, that grinding and drilling all night, the distinct aroma of sweat, blood, beer and thick crude. I agree with Newt Gingrich, as I usually do: Drill, Baby, Drill! We didn’t hear that a lot after the BP oil spill turned a large chunk of the Gulf of Mexico into a black ooze of life-killing puke. But we all have short memories. Besides, those Cajuns like monetary paybacks the same as the rest of us.
Then we have the Keystone XL pipeline. Build that sucker through my neighborhood, Running Rats Acres, and send me a check. OK, the line would have to be diverted about 450 miles, but that is cheaper than lawsuits from tree-huggers who don’t like a little 50-foot-deep slit trench in their street with the ever-so-rare spill.
Incidentally, while pumping, I note that one of the great inventions, right up there with unsliced bread and the TV remote, is the little string that attaches the gas tank top to the vehicle. It’s so simple, but how many times have you found yourself sliding under your Peterbilt to fetch a runaway gas tank top? Usually in the rain at night.
We must now consider our oil companies, which employ five out of every three Texans. (See “Glenn McCarthy” above) Despite their billion-dollar subsidies and tax breaks from a generous American public, Big Oil seems to be barely getting by: Irving-based ExxonMobil’s annual revenues of more than $400 billion are about the same as the GDP of Norway. Honest. The company made $41.1 billion in profits last year. Although that was 35 percent more profits than it made in 2010, when the company paid only 17.6 percent taxes — lower than the average American – its tax rate actually dropped. A Reuters analysis estimates that Exxon paid only 13 percent in effective taxes for 2011. Exxon paid zero taxes to the federal government in 2009. Did you?
We can blame OPEC. (Arabs and white males are the only safe targets these days.) Its founding members included such Mideast monsters as Venezuela, Ecuador, Gabon and Indonesia at the initiative of that sneaky Muslim, Venezuelan Energy and Mines minister Juan Pablo Perez Alfonzo. Speculators are also blamed for part of the price increase. And we have taxes. The U.S. federal excise tax on gasoline is 18.4 cents per gallon and 24.4 cents per gallon for diesel fuel. Here in Texas we pay an additional state tax of 20 cents on both gas and diesel. Meanwhile, I’m waiting for PIMBY, then the price of gas will not be near high enough.
Ashby is gassed at email@example.com