Saturday, April 12, 2008

The politics of gas prices

The mountain west is an area of vast open spaces with sparsely located population centers. Some towns are merely a gas station, a church, a bar and a tack shop (a business that sells things for horses and cattle and those that work on and with them). It is easier to get a bale of hay in parts of New Mexico than ink for your computer printer.

Before the Internet you took a trip to the nearest big city once a month or two of supplies. And it was in those cities that the big box stores opened up. They killed a lot of the Mom and Pop businesses in smaller towns in the area. The result was a capitalistic system that was supported by big vehicles and cheap gas and long distance driving.

I live in a resort town where it is easier to buy skis or mountain bike than a pair of jeans and tennis shoes. You cannot buy a shirt that does not have the name of the resort printed or embroidered on it. The local grocery store caters to the Texas tourist trade and not the organic diet locals. Our business depends on people traveling by car to get here. There is no other way. No trains, only a small private jet airport, no buses. And while the tourists travel here we have to travel to Santa Fe or Albuquerque to shop for things not available in our area. Or shop the Internet. And even with that delivery prices are going up.

I am looking for tile for my studio. I have a lumber yard in my town but not a flooring supply store. I traveled two hours to Lowe's to look for tile. The delivery charge to my town will be $135 or 30 cents extra per tile. I cannot haul it it my van because it is one ton of tile in a 1/2 ton base vehicle. I could do it in two trips. Twice the gas. If I had one of those little energy efficient hybrids we would be looking at six trips or more.

I have the feeling that some of those little stores Lowe's and Wal-Mart, and Sam's put out of business will spring back up eventually. But in the mean time we two choices: pay the higher prices for gas or delivery or choose to not buy those items you cannot haul in your car. A lot of us are going with the latter option because we cannot afford the first.

I don't think it would bother me as much that gas prices are causing me to totally alter my choices in life if the gas companies were not making such huge profits and paying their CEO's such huge salaries. Or if the President had a clue about what gas prices were and the impact upon our society and the businesses, especially the small businesses.

If we stopped giving gas companies tax breaks and used that money to build some railroads and make more of our communities accessible by some means other than car and made it easier to get goods into those towns we all might feel a bit less bitter. Everyone is angry at Obama for saying we are bitter. But we are bitter. We see the rich get richer and have absolutely no concept of how pinched the middle and lower classes feel by the economic woes led I think by gas and fuel prices. My life style has changed drastically due to that. I want someone to recognize it. I am angry as hell that the rich fat cats in Washington don't seem to even be aware of what we are going through. McCain said we should all just tighten our belts a little and eat out less often.

This weekend I ate out with a friend for the first time in a couple of months. I used to eat out at least once a week. My friend filled up her gas tank for the first time in a month because she has been staying home to save gas. Yes, we are bitter. And I am frankly thrilled someone running for office realized it.