The Human Factor of Higher Gas Costs

7 07 2008

I realize that at this moment and for roughly 36 days, my car, Steve Austin, has been AWOL.

I was already carpooling before Austin’s disappearance but with news like this, I’m wondering if I should just set him free.

Oil’s historic ascent from $100 to nearly $150 a barrel in just six months is lending weight to a far grimmer prediction: Crude could reach $200 a barrel by the end of the year.

I have been telling you guys this for awhile.

There are no utilities and no public transportation in this unincorporated town of a couple hundred people along a narrow road that winds through the mountains 314 miles north of Sacramento. Many people here buy gas for their vehicles and gas or diesel for generators that power their homes.

“I’m scared to death” of rising fuel prices, Hanley says. At the store, the hub for visiting whitewater rafters and residents of other isolated towns, gas cost $5.30 a gallon on a recent day when the national average was $4.07.

This community may be an extreme example of how rising gas prices are hitting rural Americans particularly hard, but people in small towns from Maine to Alaska are in a similar bind as those here.

Aunt B. wrote awhile back about how the suburbs of urban cities were also going to be hit.

I can sit and talk about this all day. I have no idea what rural Americans are going to do. My income has only gone up slightly in the past three years. My cost of living has skyrocketed. Due to a very good network of friends and family, we are doing okay.

But what about the folks that make roughly $7 bucks an hour? It might not be common in larger cities but it’s very common in rural America. Salaries are just not as high. It used to not matter. It does now. Food expenses, which have to be trucked in, have gone through the roof in small towns across this country.

The options are limited. Do folks like Squirrel Queen and I move to a place with public transportation? I took the trains and trams in Amsterdam and Montreal when I lived there. It was no problem. I actually kind of liked it.

And this happened recently. We will no longer be able to go get a Commercial Appeal (which is having it’s own problems) or a Tennessean, which will cut services to northwest Tennessee on July 27. Fuel costs are just too high although they say it’s only a “factor.” Many folks who deliver papers are subcontracted out, including route delivery people, and the cost of that I’m sure was just too much.

It’s a cost-cutting measure, of course, but it’s still frustrating. I liked the Sunday papers.

No Sunday papers in a ten-county area, gas prices looking like they’re pushing towards five bucks a gallon, and I just noticed my dog’s usual (and previously relatively inexpensive) dog food has gone up nearly an entire four dollars a bag. My salary’s certainly taken a big hit this year catastrophically – and I’m obviously not a “normal” case – but even if I was still working the same job, I’m pretty sure my salary wouldn’t have gone up much (if at all), and I imagine many others are in the same boat. What’s next? I’m honestly beginning to dread to even wonder.

What’s next?

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7 responses

7 07 2008
This Is The End : Post Politics: Political News and Views in Tennessee

[…] Newscoma wonders what will become of rural Tennessee with the advent of skyrocketing gas prices: I have no idea what rural Americans are going to do. My income has only gone up slightly in the past three years. My cost of living has skyrocketed. Due to a very good network of friends and family, we are doing okay. […]

7 07 2008
Mack

I’m pretty sure I was screaming about this years ago. But as long as Aunt B wrote about it…its all good.

7 07 2008
chez beziat

Got my borrowed bicycle yesterday and getting my borrowed scooter within the week. That’s my solution assuming I don’t get run off the road by angry people in cars.

My best to ya.

7 07 2008
newscoma

Oh Mack, now you are being ornery. 🙂
I am seriously, Chez, thinking of a scooter. SERIOUSLY for a variety of reasons. One, gas. Two, I like ’em. Three, SQ says NO!

But I say yup.

7 07 2008
Rachel

Wait, why does SQ say no to a scooter? Because I’ve been thinking about this, but if SQ says no…. 😉

8 07 2008
Lynnster

Rachel, SQ (and Homer) just say no to ‘Coma having one because they think they’ll break her neck on one. 😛

‘Coma, RE the post – I dunno what I’d do if I didn’t work from home these days. Here I live in a large urban city, but if I worked anywhere here that I have the last 20 years – even the closest one – I don’t think I would be able to afford to drive to work five days a week, and all but two places I worked (and one of those only briefly) are too far out for public transportation.

So, thank goodness, I guess, for being poor and working from home.

I don’t generally pay all that much attention to prices at the grocery and stuff, but I couldn’t help but notice on my last trip for several necessities that virtually almost everything I have to buy regularly has increased significantly just in the past three or four WEEKS.

It’s a darn good thing I barely eat and usually only once a day, if even that. If I ate meals and worked like “normal” people, I’d be totally screwed.

8 07 2008
Lynnster

Crap, I meant “they think SHE’LL (‘Coma) break her neck on one”. I can’t type.

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