To the Point for 8-10-06

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AS SUMMER COMES to an end, our kids start back to school next week and most family vacations have been finished. Soon the leaves will start to fall, and thoughts will turn to cooler weather.

But the end of warm days doesn’t mean the end of high gas prices around the country, and with recent events around the globe, it appears that there is very little relief in sight for any of us.

I was in Madison the other night and was in need of gasoline. I saw a station with gas at $2.99 – who would have ever thought we’d think that was a good price? My family had to go back in that direction later in the evening, but I decided that since I was there, I might as well fill up.

Driving back past about 90 minutes later, the price had jumped to $3.16 – a rise of 17-cents in less than two hours.

The people taking the beating for these high gas prices are the individual distributors. Local folks who happen to sell gas are getting barbecued in public, but if a person takes a realistic look at what’s really going on, gas station owners are simply the fall guys for officials at the state and national levels.

Every time you purchase a gallon of gasoline, you’re also paying all sorts of taxes along with the price of the fuel. In some cases those taxes make up a significant portion of the price, but all we see is the final per gallon charge, and we think someone’s getting rich.

As more and more people tried to take a vacation during the summer, more and more money went into the fuel tanks of automobiles in order to make the trip. Not only did that mean that most families took shorter trips – or none at all – but it also meant that those are dollars that cannot be spent in other establishments.

Maybe the high price of gasoline meant that families didn’t repaint their living room or purchase a new piece of furniture. Maybe there won’t be as many school clothes purchased. Perhaps we’ll wait to find a new home to live in.

Dollars only go so far for the American family, and as more and more gets eaten up in the high price of fuel, less and less can go other places.

Now we get word that a major portion of the Alaskan Pipeline, which supplies about eight percent of our oil supply, has been shut down because of flaws in the pipe. Officials assure all of us that the shut down won’t have an affect on supplies here, but you have to believe that it will have some ripple at the point of purchase.

Indiana representative Patrick Bauer of South Bend has asked for an investigation into high gasoline prices in Indiana; and our state representative, Bob Bischoff, has announced that he will seek a permanent repeal of the state’s gasoline tax – which would supply some relief for drivers, but how can we be sure that petroleum companies won’t just hike their prices?

Once we all get used to paying $3 per gallon for gasoline, what benefit is it to major oil companies to bring the price back down? After all, they aren’t the ones catching the venom at the pumps – they leave that to Mike Oechsner, Ron Otter, Terry Stephenson, and others.

People say, “Just don’t go anywhere.” Well, that’s easier said than done; and doesn’t completely eliminate the situation.

Ever think about how much gas we use each week simply mowing our yards? A gallon here and a gallon there multiplied by millions of lawns translates to a lot of usage that we don’t ever really think about.

What we need to do is to stay informed about the issue at the national and state level, and try and be a little more understanding when it comes to those catching most of the flack at the local level.

We can also do a little bit more to help conserve, including making good use of our trips to the store or other places, and by cutting down on unnecessary trips.

We can also support social activities in our local community – such as the popular “First Friday” events – which are happening close by and don’t require much driving.

Some experts are saying that gasoline may reach $4 per gallon by the end of the year. Until it does, we must remain informed and educated about the overall issue, and not simply resort to blaming our local business owners – who don’t have any control, anyway.