INGRAM: Paying the price at the pump

CJ-0402-COL-Floyd-1C-MUGI took driver’s education at West Point Junior High in 1975 and some of you may remember the simulator trailer they taught us to drive in.

This was the day and age before computer games and it was the latest in technology. The trailer had a movie screen at one end and car seats that faced a dashboard with a steering wheel, brake and gas pedal on each side of a center aisle. They ran a movie and you were required to drive around making turns as the film of city streets and highways rolled.

I one of those movies I remember seeing a gas station with a sign proclaiming “Gasoline 22-cents.”

Do the math. At those prices, 20-gallons of gasoline cost you a whole $4.40!

A lot of things have changed since 1975.

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Gasoline prices in Houston are hovering around $3.40 today and 20-gallons of unleaded costs you $68.

And they say we could be paying up to $4 for a gallon before summer is over.

Oil company executives are quick to point to events in Iraq and Syria and say that is the reason for the recent jump in oil prices. I question their reasoning.

Let’s look at some facts.

The three largest suppliers of oil are Saudia Arabia (10.9 million barrels a day), Russia (9.9 million) and the United States (6.7 million). Iraq provides less than 2 percent of world oil.

I used to live in Texas and I knew landowners who sat on top of oil and politely said they would only turn on the spigot when oil topped a very high price.

Some say it’s about supply and demand. I say it is all about greed.

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Rural areas suffer the most when we see gasoline prices spike.

We don’t have the choices of folks in Tupelo, Memphis or Jackson. The price at the pump on the corner of Highway 8 and 15 what we have to pay.

My heart goes out to local farmers who are looking at fuel budgets this fall and trying to figure out how much it is going to cost them to harvest. They are also be pinched with fertilizer, herbicide and pesticide costs that hinge on the price of petroleum.

When I first moved to Houston I was shocked to find gas going for up to nine cents a gallon more than gasoline in West Point, Calhoun City and Tupelo. I asked around and found it was a localized problem. It seems people buy it at those prices and so jobbers and gas stations charge what the market will bear.

A jobber is a gasoline marketer that purchases fuel from refining companies and trucks it to local gasoline stations. These guys act as the middleman and jobbers often own the gas being sold and the station you are pumping if from.

They are the people – along with the local station owner – who ultimately set the local price of gas.

But, I guess hauling gasoline up and down the red clay hills around here does add a little to the price of fuel.

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As a much younger reporter I once did a series of stories on gas prices in the Golden Triangle.

A group of businessmen met every Tuesday morning at the Kettle Restaurant in Columbus and set the price of gas for Columbus, Starkville and West Point.

I sat quietly and ate breakfast in a nearby booth for about three weeks as my paper put the story together. After the story broke those gentlemen were quite rude to me and I never ate breakfast there again.

People tend to get very upset whenever you write about their children or their money.

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I hear people all the time say we need to shop local.

Think about this. I can get gasoline in West Point for 10-cents cheaper per gallon and if Momma lets me use her Walmart discount card I can get another dime off the price. That makes a trip to visit Momma a good investment for a truck that holds 30-gallons. And of course Sara never goes within a mile of a SuperCenter that she doesn’t buy something.

Cheaper gas prices elsewhere are just another excuse to shop out of town.

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I predict gasoline prices will rise over the next couple of months as events in the Middle East prompt people to speculate on oil.

Gasoline is literally the fuel of our economy and high gas prices will crimp any recovery we hope to see in this country and certainly Chickasaw County.

I recently had someone tell me energy is the new real estate market and investors are throwing dollars at this sector in an effort to make money off a very volatile commodity. Like real estate prices of a couple of years ago, that greed makes for a dangerous and higher price, too.

Congress will get involved if we fuss. They will beg to step-up deepwater drilling in the Gulf. They will shake their fingers at big oil companies and everything will settle down when the price drops a little.

And as Wall Street investors and local oil moguls cash in on this latest turn of events, you and I will quietly go to the pump and pay the price.

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