Tag Archives: gas prices

Prolonging the pain at the pump: keeping a gas guzzler

I have a 1998 Toyota Sienna Minivan.

It’s not a hip car, but it’s a great car. 120,000 miles and nothing has ever broken on it.  It’s comfy, quiet, and useful. It’s the best car I’ve ever owned.  My poodle Molly and I traveled 10,000 miles across the US, up and down the eastern seaboard and back in it in 2001, right after 9/11 (“Travels with Charley” redux).

Poodle and Packed Minivan

Poodle and Packed Minivan

It also gets a sucky average of 19 mpg.  The price of gas is bad enough, but the fact that my carbon output is twice as high as it could be bothers me even more.

So like many others, I checked into down-sizing my ride. hahaha.

What I suspected is true.  The NY Times has an article today about whether this is a cost-effective plan. In the article is a link to a website where you can calculate how soon you’ll break even if you trade in your gas-guzzler for a more fuel-efficient model. I did the math:

My car’s trade-in value is $4,100.  A used 2005 Honda Civic hybrid is $19,200. Not counting sales tax, license fees, etc – and if gas stays at $4/25 a gallon – I will break even in a mere ten years!

The Sienna stays. I have to figure out how to rely on it less.

Preposterous profits: Exxon Mobil eats your lunch

Exxon Mobil posted the fattest operating profit in in US corporate history yesterday – $11.7 billion for the second quarter. Up from last year, and from the year before. While the company insists it’s trying to bring down gas prices, the money they spend on exploration ($7 billion) pales compared to what they’ve spent in recent years on stock buybacks ($8 billion) and dividends. (from an AP story)

Company profits were $40.61 billion in 2007.

They want more drilling rights, offshore and ANWAR, when they don’t even use a whole lot of the rights they already have.

In 2007 CEO Rex Tillerson took home a pay package that included $1.75 million in salary, a $3.36 million bonus, and $16.1 million of stock and option awards, according to a company filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. He also received nearly $430,000 of other compensation, including $229,331 for personal security and $41,122 for use of the company aircraft.

I wonder if they’ll up his travel allowance to cover higher fuel costs… poor baby. I suppose every time he fills the tank he makes a little more profit, so what does he care?

Occidental Petroleum Corp CEO Ray Irani made $33.6 million and Anadarko Petroleum Corp chief James Hackett took in $26.7 million in 2007 – even more than Tillerson.

Perturbed but not yet pessimistic

Perturbed: greatly disturbed, made uneasy or anxious, confused.

Pessimistic: a tendency to take the gloomiest possible view of a situation.

Times are getting tough. People are perturbed. The usually optimistic are beginning to rethink their positions.

  • An old friend stopped by today. She is visiting from the Bay Area for a long weekend with her husband. Just before leaving town yesterday her boss at Oracle called her in to say she was being laid off.  Part of a purge.
  • My ex has a real estate investment that just went belly up.
  • My gig contributing feng shui articles to the local newspaper was terminated because that section of the paper is being eliminated (along with 20 more staff members).
  • My investment portfolio is down 22% since Jan.1.
  • Food prices have increased 5.3% in the past year.
  • Gas prices are $1.32 a gallon higher in Washington state than a year ago – more than 25%.

It’s not all bad:

  • My laid-off friend found a job in a different division of Oracle and will be able to work when she returns from vacation.
  • Many of us are driving much less and much less aggressively, which is good for the environment and our stress levels.  Some of us even have enough spare cash to buy a Prius
  • Many of us have returned to growing our own veggies… I’ve got lettuce, spinach, herbs, and blueberries right now. Beans, squash, tomatoes, beets, grapes on the way. How locavore can you get?
  • I still have a roof over my head, with enough rooms in my house to sleep extra folks if necessary. I don’t know if I can extend that offer to my ex though… (he still has his own roof).
  • The less I have, the more appreciative I am of what I do have: friends, family, health, music, dance, books, children, beauty, laughter. On and on. So much.

Pumping Gas – preposterous!

Astro, a 9-year-old dalmation waits for his owner to fuel up in Eugene, OR.

I fueled up today too. At Costco. $70.37 – first time ever over $70/tank. I swear it was just a month ago that I first topped $60/tank. Costco is at least 20 cents cheaper than the Shell station. However, the lines were ridiculously long and if my time were MONEY, which it is, I might more productively spent the $2.80 I saved doing something else.

There’s no question it’s past time for me to downsize my car. OK. It’s a 1998 Toyota Sienna. Truly the best vehicle I’ve ever owned. 118k miles and NO problems besides a dead battery. Fully paid for. A known and trusty quantity.

To buy another smaller car -even if it were used, and I was able to trade straight across price-wise (unlikely), I’d be paying at least $800 in sales tax for the other car. Plus mini-vans are not exactly hot sellers these days, and decent small or hybrid cars are scarce and/or spendy.

What I really should do is get a horse. He can eat my weeds, and I can ride him for short-haul errands, only using the Sienna for longer trips.

That or a motor scooter. (I live at the bottom of a long steep hill… daunting on a bicycle).

Provincial, parochial: the anti-Portland, anti-tax, anti-light railers

Provincial: from the provinces; having local or restricted interests or outlook

Parochial: confined or restricted as if within the borders of a parish; limited in range or scope

I live in Vancouver, Washington – a city of 170,000 just across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon. (No, we are not in British Columbia.).

Many people in Clark County work in Portland, and vice versa. Many of us also like the cultural and shopping opportunities in Portland.

Our two communities are linked by two interstate highways that cross the river . I-5 is the main west coast interstate thoroughfare – running from the Canadian border to the Mexican one. I-205 is a 40ish-mile by-pass a few miles east of I-5. Both highways cross the big river on bridges.

The I-5 bridge is old, narrow, and not earthquake safe. And with the rapid growth in the region, traffic on the bridge at peak hours slows to a crawl, and the crawl times get longer every year. It is also a draw bridge: because of its low profile any tall boat traveling up or down river means the bridge is raised and traffic stops completely for about ten minutes.

For all these reasons a bi-state task force has been studying solutions to this problem for years. They call themselves the Columbia River Crossing. At this point they’re about to release their recommendation and are taking public testimony.

Last night there was a hearing in Vancouver and all the anti-Portland, anti-tax, anti-light railers were out in force. They fear that our taxes will sky-rocket, that all the Portland riff-raff will ride the rails to Vancouver in order to rape our girls and steal our cars, and they think that light rail is a socialist plot. “We don’t need no stinkin’ Portland…”

The challenge is getting the pro-light railers out. So tonight I went to the second hearing to testify – this one in Portland. Not surprisingly most of the speakers were in favor of the project and of light rail.

I love my town, but sometimes I just want to shake my neighbors. With gas prices going through the roof, oil only getting scarcer, air getting more foul, and federal money available for this project now it seems like a no-brainer to me.

Having lived in the Bay Area before and after BART was built, I know how fabulous light rail is. But these folks haven’t left the provinces to experience it for themselves.