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March 10, 2011

That Rumbling is Just Gas!

Norman M. Covert

It isn’t love and certainly this “rumbly in my tumbly” can probably be attributed to gas. Not that kind, Bubba, it’s the stuff Jed Clampett found while shooting at some food. The voice-over called it “bubbling crude … black gold.”


Call me an hysteric, but I have a sense that another great gas shortage is coming. Some of you remember 1973-74 when we saw copious “No Gas” signs and queues of cars waiting interminable periods to pump the precious life giving liquid into our cars.


This time, however, the gas shortage won’t be because we rearmed the Children of Israel as we did in that year’s epic Yom Kippur War. Our little buddies were kicking Arab butt back across the Suez Canal and to Syria. In retaliation, the oil sheiks jacked up the price of a barrel of Middle Eastern crude to $18. It reached $25 bbl. within two years.


Call it déjà vu for this user of petroleum and petroleum products. The crystal ball shows future gas lines and exorbitant fuel prices due in part to the indisposition of loveable despots surrounding Israel.


Consider the recent self-destruction of long-time “potentates” in a scene reminiscent of the last days of the former Soviet Union. The wall is coming down, so to speak. What cannot be foreseen is what the hopeful citizen hordes might actually achieve in a government in return for their patriotic zeal. Radical Islam is the juggernaut which may ultimately seize control of the disputed governments.


No less culpable in our troubled future will be President Barack H. Obama. Either through incompetence or ignorance, he seems unable to realize the danger of sequestering our massive oil, gas and coal reserves. It undoubtedly empowers the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). It will take decades to overcome his mistake of judgment.


Our enemies, it would seem, are without and within.


We said goodbye recently to former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, considered a friend of the United States for many years. Libyan Dictator Col. Muammar Gaddafi could be next to depart. We learned to love him after President Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy decision sent an air-to-ground missile into one of Gaddafi’s palaces.


North Africa’s turmoil is a far cry from the halcyon days when tribal chiefs ceded political rule to the “civilized” French and British empire builders, enjoying the income and leisure. Saudi Arabia, foundation of Southwest Asian oil, is a power broker right now, cementing its seemingly moderate religious and political will. Radical Islam flies under the radar there, but its roots are deep among the Saudis.


Veteran observers see Radical Islam bringing Algeria to a boil. It has nearly completed the takeover of Lebanon, but Syria is an unknown quantity. Its leader Bashar al-Assad may still be in power because of his radical allies. He “made his bones” taking clandestine delivery of Iraq strong man Saddam Hussein’s bio/chemical warfare arsenal before the allied invasion, helped out with the Oil for Food embargo and provided safe haven for Iraqi thugs.


Radical Islam is laughing at America’s new-look foreign policy as its puppets cash our oil checks – yet our government still cannot even say the words “Radical Islam.”


Who could forget waiting in gas lines in 1973? There were odd and even calendar days when the last digit on your license plate determined when you could legally purchase gas.


The curtain is rising today on Act Two of the gasoline war drama. Soaring gasoline prices are blamed on the $105 per barrel price of crude this week. It is unlikely to fall measurably in the foreseeable future.


A recent assignment took me to Pennsylvania where Breezewood’s massive commercial truck emporiums serve as terminals for commercial freight movement. Drivers complained about the price of a shower ($45), but railed as much about the price of diesel fuel which averaged $4.15 per gallon – $4.06 cash price. Whether independent or affiliated, these long-haul drivers witness radical changes at each point along their routes.


High octane gasoline was $3.89.9 per gallon at Breezewood’s Gateway station, while Sheetz in Frederick pumped it at $3.69.9. Diesel was averaging about $3.85.


The price of crude is only one part of the overall cost of fuel. The federal excise tax on gasoline is $0.18.4 per gallon, $0.24.4 for diesel. Add on the Pennsylvania rate of $0.31.1 and $0.35.1 per gallon, respectively, and you get a sense where prices are headed. Pennsylvania also tacks on an extra rate for commercial firms who store and transfer fuel.


Maryland is on a par with Delaware with its $0.23.5 and $0.24.25 gas and diesel tax. Delaware is at $0.23. Virginia is lowest in the region at $0.17.5 per gallon of gasoline. Pretty good for the Old Line State until you read proposals to raise the fuel tax another 10-15 cents per gallon.


The petroleum lifeline is fragile. Remember that Russia turned off the natural gas spigot to Europe in 2009 in a show of economic strength. OPEC knows it has the power to control the price of crude, but it still loves our money and tolerates “Radical Islam” because of shared bloodlines.


Maybe my quirky stomach actually is acid reflux, but the reality of our fossil fuel drama is impetus to keep at hand the Schwinn Green Hornet bicycle and high tech Trek velocipede. They represent alternate short distance transports generating kinetic energy with foot power. I may be short on that, too, but can’t give up my addiction to “earl.”


Yellow Cab
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