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Monday, October 13, 2008

It's A Gas, Gas, Gas

One of the points of this blog is to give people insights into the mind of an average veterinarian. This means that not every post will be about veterinary medicine, as you gain some insight into my mind. (Yeah, a scary place, I know...I live there every day)

I'm not sure how things have been where you live, but here in the Atlanta metro area, gas has been pretty scarce. After the last hurricane, we had a major supply shortage in the area. For a while, most gas stations were out of gas, and finding some would often involve a lot of searching and 20-30 minutes of waiting in line. Thankfully, the supply lines got back to normal, and we have plenty of gas in the area.

But I've noticed an amazing and welcome trend. About a week and a half ago gas was about $4.00 a gallon. Gas prices have been plummeting, lately dropping $0.10 per day. When I left work this afternoon it was $3.15 per gallon, and when I went in this morning it was $3.25. I know that gas prices are pretty complex, made of a combination of crude oil prices, refinery capacity, taxes, type of gas (for different metro areas and times of year), and supply and demand. I've been doing some searching on the internet as I've heard of crude oil prices dropping. And I've noticed something interesting. The last time a barrel of oil was at this price was about a year ago. So you'd think that if a barrel of oil was the same, then gas should be the same as it was in October 2007, right? Think again. Gas prices were about $0.60 per gallon cheaper then, even though oil was a similar price.

Now, I don't believe in a great conspiracy of oil companies. I know that gasoline prices are made up of more factors than just oil prices. I also know that the gas stations are not to blame, as they make only a little bit per gallon (the government makes more in taxes than the store makes in profit!). And I know that at about 9% profit margin, oil companies have a much smaller margin than many other products we buy or use. But I still have to wonder at why prices are still so high, all things considered. Have we grown so used to $4 per gallon that we're excited at the idea of $3 per gallon? When just a year ago $2.70 was outrageously high?

So what can we do? Well, conservation is important, and I think we're all learning about that. I doubt that the gas guzzlers will make a comeback for a long time, if ever. And frankly, I don't know that the government can help much. The Republicans are right in the fact that we need to utilize the oil reserves that we have in this country, while we explore other sources of fuel and energy. And for all of the talk prior to the 2006 election, the Democrats seem awfully quiet about gas lately. Like most people, I've started losing all confidence in Congress's ability to do anything helpful for us. So I really don't know the answer, though there seem to be some reasonable plans out there that combine the best ideas. Now if we can just get our legislators to actually listen to us!

But heck, I'm just excited that in the next few days we may actually see gas back under $3!