Thomm Quackenbush, author

Term Oil

You imagined there would be rioting on the streets when gas hit $2 a gallon. Now, you'd punch a nun in the face to pay $2 a gallon. You would at least shove her a little to pay $3. Gasoline is more than $4 in most places in America and is predicted to reach $5 within a few weeks. This is a lot, since I am sending this back to the 1980s. The following are less than a gallon of gas: a gallon of milk, a loaf of bread, most magazines (even graphic ones). The president spat at a reporter a month ago when it was suggested gas might reach $4, accusing him of a liberal bias and claiming this could never happen. You have seen gas prices increase fifteen cents in two hours, but that may just be your eyes liberal bias to the objective truth.

One on the many things this price hike affects is trucking, which is a great deal more important than it sounds. Diesel fuel already costs more than $5 a gallon and the truckers' union is constantly itchy to strike given that the individual truckers are expected to absorb the fuel costs. Politically, you support their right to strike. They shouldn't lose money because they oil companies have a stranglehold on the country. Economically, you are aware that a trucker strike will quickly turn the current recession into a near fatal depression. Anything that is shipped requires a trucker. The moment the strike is officially announced, people will raid the grocery stores and deplete them of everything, assuming that they will never again have access to Cheetos. This will exponentially raise the prices of groceries and may possibly cause those riots you are expecting. We do need actually food slightly more than we need oil and tend to turn feral if we are forced to skip too many meals.

Another way this affects the economy is that people in the lower income brackets are unable to drive to their minimum wage jobs because they can't put gas in their Pintos. Much like the truckers, increased gas prices would mean that they are actually paying oil companies for the privilege of working at a McDonald's. It is a losing proposition. These people are therefore forced to quit their jobs and hope they can get something a bit more local. While you do live in a futuristic society where people can commute to work from their home computers, this isn't an option for the guy who works the fryolator at the local fast food restaurant. That too decreases the economy, as people who aren't making money certainly are not spending it. Likewise, impoverished people are more like to turn to crime to sustain themselves, further decreasing the quality of living.

For the most part, you assume that this gasoline crisis is caused by people being jerks. Not too long ago, a man went out of his way trading barrels of oils until he became the first person to sell oil at $100 a barrel. He artificially manipulated the market to do this solely because he wanted to brag to his grandkids that he could. This is apparently not criminal, but you are vaguely in favor of invoking capital punishment again him anyway, just to send a message to similar idiots that this sort of behavior is frowned upon in a society that wants to survive. You sincerely hope his grandchildren remember what he did when they are fighting to the death Mad Max style for a liter of gasoline because their granddad abused oil speculation. Speculation basically means that a barrel of oil is bought and sold innumerable times before it crosses the ocean in an effort to get the best price for it. It's not based on anything too logical, sometimes the price of a barrel of oil will increase on the news that the price of a barrel of oil might increase.

All gas companies are reporting record profits, meaning they are gleefully fleecing the public and the American government punishes them how? By giving them massive corporate welfare, your tax dollars. You don't understand this and have a sneaking suspicion that you are far from alone. Apparently, it is really hard to cash billion dollar checks and these people somehow deserve your sympathy. They cry that they are being deprived drilling rights, but they are stingy about using those drilling rights they do have for fear of making the global marketplace realize how unjustified the price of oil is.

But this increase in the price isn't purely psychological. There is an increase in demand owing to India and China, each with a billion people, becoming more industrialized. (And, yes, the Chinese have cars despite being commies. They put 9000 more on the road every day.) There is no increase in supply. The gas cartels decreased the amount of oil they were releasing to help drive the price up even more.

Of course, our main supplier for gas (the Middle East) pretty much hates us and would happily see us pay $30 a gallon and have our economy collapse, because they are short sighted and don't realize that they are likewise reliant on us. At some point, gas prices will reach a critical mass. You would hope that some of the money spent on gas would be used to fund renewable, non-petroleum based fuels. You are also aware that a failed oilman and his cronies populate the White House. They have more than a little to do with the prices. They started the war that shot the prices up.

People refer to the American need for oil as an addiction, but you think this is pat. An addiction is to something you don't truly need but feel you do. Our economy is so reliant on oil that the president was trying to make oil and not gold the backing for the dollar. Without oil, the economic backbone of the nation breaks, since we have nothing else to successfully replace it with yet. An addict, deprived of their fix, shakes and shivers for a week and is then stronger. Deprived of oil, America would collapse and not get up for a long time.

Frankly, this can't all be blamed on the government, oil companies, and their minions. You are still baffled at the popularity of SUVs, an acronym for sports utility vehicles. You would imagine from that title that these behemoths of vehicles - some amalgam of truck cab, car, and tank - would mostly be used for daring off-road trips to the mountains, but the closest to "sport" these vehicles - that could comfortably seat twelve people in some models - get is driving a nine year old named Kelsei to soccer practice three miles away. Not all of those who drive SUVs can be so pigeon-holed, but the stereotype is certainly with its many antecedents. The car companies that make these are currently offering an incentive of a year of $3 gas to sell their vehicles, a program that is shockingly successful given that they instituted these programs at the expense of other incentives that actually saved the consumer more money.

Despite this being the future, cars do still need gas to run. As far as you know, they aren't even especially more fuel efficient despite the fuel crisis of the 80s. Many are worse off. We've yet to get to gas rationing, but you can't discount it entirely. We're paying European prices for gas, but they have reliable public transportation because they invested in that infrastructure. In fact, for you to get anywhere worth being, you probably burn $10 of gas. Your car gets something like thirty-three miles to the gallon, but you don't actually know. While not specifically part of the solution, you are least are not a huge part of the problem. You conserve your gas and ride your bike when you have the time.


Xen is sending the text of these essays back in time to his prepubescent self using advanced technology and fairy dust. That you can manage to read them as well is only a glitch in the servers.
Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings.


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Works by Thomm Quackenbush

Anthologies

Find What You Love and Let It Kill You by Thomm Quackenbush
Pagan Standard Times: Essays on the Craft by Thomm Quackenbush
A Creature Was Stirring: A Twisted Christmas Anthology by Thomm Quackenbush
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