Column: $4 a gallon? Seriously, that’s just wrong

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06/15/2011 2:23 PM |

THIS JUST IN: Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has announced that his office is completing a comprehensive review of the rising cost of gasoline in the New York metropolitan area, including Long Island.

“At a time when the public is very skeptical about what goes on behind the scenes when determining gas prices, it is my responsibility to make sure that everyone involved in setting prices plays by the rules,” the AG said.

OF COURSE they’re playing by the rules. And the rules go like this: When a rusty pipe valve at a wellhead in some distant oil-producing region gets stuck in the closed position, the price of a gallon of crude soars upward like a Mark Texitera home run and gas station operators run out to jack up their prices sprint faster than Brett Gardner stealing second.

(Yes, I know, those are “in your face!” Yankee references, But long-suffering Mets fans, which is redundant, expect that here.)
On the other hand, in the oh-so-rare event of a drop in crude prices, gas station doors seem to get stuck in the closed position and nobody can lay their hands on the screwdriver or whatever thingamajig is used to reduce the at-the-pump prices.

It’s simple supply and demand. They gots the supply, and thus, in setting prices can demand whatever the Hades they wish.
Does that grind my gears? Sadly, not anymore. This has happened time and time and time again, generating identical assurances from politicos to “get to the bottom of this.” But so far, I’ve yet to come across a press release claiming anything in the nature of, “(President, Governor or Congressman) So-and-so breaks the back of big oil! Gas prices down to $1.87 per gallon and falling!”

I have an old black and white photo taken for a graduate school assignment of a line of cars rolling down a slight hill at an angle a little after dusk. Taken at a slow shutter speed, the headlights appear V-shaped, like little seagulls. Off to one side is a gas station price sign, fuzzy but still readable. A gallon of regular cost 44 cents.

No, this was not in the days of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and, no, you didn’t need to yank on a crank to start the motor. President Ford, not Garfield, was in the White House at the time.

A few years before that, the nation was in the grips of the great “Arab oil embargo.” I won’t go into the history or the geopolitical nuances. Suffice it to say that gas became scarce and expensive. More than once I waited on line for about three hours to get $5 worth at 70 cents or so per gallon. More than once someone offered, “Well, at least we know it won’t ever go above a dollar a gallon because the pumps aren’t made to handle prices above 99.9 cents.”

Yeah, well, that proved to be unrealistically optimistic, didn’t it?

OK, so the news now is gas can be obtained at just a wee bit under $4 a gallon. Fortunately, me and the Mrs. have short commutes, 7 minutes and about 90 seconds, respectively. I feel for the poor saps who motor to Mineola or some such up-island destination each day. OK, no I don’t. Ha, suckers!

We rack up mileage, though, during weekly visits from me firstborn, the one who knows that the North Fork, not Brooklyn, is the place to be on weekends. (I’m told this is a rather common phenomenon hereabouts.) Since he works in Manhattan, he has no need to own a car, especially when there’s always one available at the old folks’ place.

It’s also a rather common phenomenon on a Monday morning to discover that there’s not enough gas in one of the vehicle’s tanks to wet a Q-tip. Hey, Mr. Rockefeller, would it kill ya to drop 10 bucks worth? We did give you life, and all.
What? Of course I’d like to see me grandchildren one day. What are you driving at?

And, yeah, I know there may come day when you pick out “my home.” And your point?

Ah, I see.

Fast-forward to me at the pump. Hey, look at that. $3.94. Not bad, not bad at all.

Tim Kelly is the editor of The Suffolk Times. He can be reached at [email protected] or 631-298-3200, ext. 238.