Friday, October 14, 2005

Fall is Here

Fall is here. The leaves are beginning their magical transformation from green to yellows and reds then to withered browns. Everyone knows this change takes place every year, but they need to see it for themselves – over and over again.

Businesses in the western North Carolina region depend on tourism for a good part of their annual income. The most profitable season is fall. “Come see the fall colors in the beautiful mountains of western North Carolina. Spend lots of money while you’re here.”

We may be hurting this year, though. Gasoline prices are through the roof, and while they are under $3 per gallon, they still ain’t cheap. Petroleum prices in this area are some of the highest in the nation. Why? Who the fuck knows.

The old logic was that North Carolina has high gasoline taxes. Of course we have good highways too, paid for by those tax revenues.

Added to this, as the legend goes, it costs more to truck the fuel up the mountains. It must be true. All you need to do is drive 30 miles down the mountain into South Carolina and gas is 10 to 15 cents less expensive. Drive another 60 miles to Georgia and the prices drop another 10 cents.

The real question is: Why did fuel prices jump from $1.50 a gallon to $3.50 a gallon in a month? “Oh,” you say. “It was because Hurricane Katrina knocked out so many Gulf shore oil refineries.” So what? All that did was make fuel less plentiful, not more expensive.

OK. So if there’s less fuel, then the oil companies are going to make less money. That makes sense. They’ve only been posting 300 to 500% profit increases each year for the past few years. They need to jack prices up so that their upper management people can still afford their luxury condos and BMW’s.

I guess it’s comparable to me selling bubble gum. My supplier had a fire in his production facility, so I won’t be getting any bubble gum for a month while he retools. If I’m going to maintain the lifestyle to which I’ve become accustomed, I need to triple the price of my gum. I don’t need to worry about my customers not buying, because everybody loves bubble gum. They can’t live without it.

But you know what? They can live without it. They can just say, “Screw you. When the price comes back down, which we know it will, we’ll start chewing gum again. You can sit on what you’ve got, and throw it away when it gets stale.”

People can live without using so much fuel, too. First off, get rid of those gas guzzling fuel hogs that we’ve named SUV’s. Who, besides the military, needs a Hummer? Next, quit making 15 trips to the grocery store when 2 or 3 planned trips would be more convenient and a whole lot cheaper. Lastly, look into those “hybrids.” They are the wave of the future.

The only people I feel sorry for in this whole mess are truck drivers. Not the company guys, but the ones who own their own rigs. Fuel costs come right off their bottom line.

My neighbor still drives, and owns his truck. He’s leased out to a large company, but still buys his own fuel. I spoke to him last weekend and he told me that his fuel cost went from $1600 a week to almost $3000.

That’s a hell of a cut when he still has a truck payment, maintenance and repairs, taxes and a mortgage to pay. Yeah, independent truckers make a lot of money. But by the time all the overhead and expenses come out, it may get to the point that it’s just not worth the aggravation any more.

Then watcha gonna do for that gallon of milk or loaf of bread or that new storm door. Most of our commodities are still delivered by trucks.

Be back soon,


No comments: