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by Wendy Vapors, 2/25/00

Dc: This is DCR. News meant for amusement.
Gas prices continue to climb. A barrel of oil that once cost under 12 dollars is now up over 25, possibly heading for 30, and leading to price increases at the pump and surcharges on airline tickets. Economists say this remarkable increase will not necessarily derail the economic expansion, even though in years past the economy was highly sensitive to changes in the oil market. We asked Wendy Vapors to take a break as our chief political correspondent and focus instead on being an expert on oil and economics.

Wendy: It's as simple as can be if you don't let yourself get confused by numbers and facts.

Dc: Wendy, why does oil cost so much?

Wendy: It's called "supply and demand." Demand for oil is up. Supply is down. So when that happens, the price goes UP.
This is a change from other years when demand for oil was still UP, but the supply was even UPPER. Then the price went DOWN. See?

Dc: I'm working on it.

Wendy: Give yourself time. There are no wrong answers.

Dc: There aren't?

Wendy: Actually there are.

Dc: And the oil producers are orchestrating this?

Wendy: It's like Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone With the Wind." Do you remember the part of the movie where everything is going wrong for her? No home, everything on fire. Really sad? That was the oil producers just a few years ago. And just like Scarlett, they promised themselves that they would "never go hungry again." So this is their revenge.

Dc: Is there anything we can do about it?

Wendy: No. We're really, really helpless.

Dc: And you've been out talking to drivers about this too, haven't you.

Wendy: Yes. In fact, I went to a local Fuel Fair station and offered to pump gas for motorists if they would talk to me about prices. I had plenty of takers, and they are in agreement that they don't like the new, higher prices! Surprise! Just about everyone had expected gas to stay low.

(sfx: traffic)

One person I talked to was Don Snickler, who just took delivery on a year 2000 Intimida Sherpa.

Don: It was between this and the Conquistador.

Wendy: This is as big as a freighter. Why did you …

Don: It's not for me. It's for my wife and kids.

Wendy: Maybe you should have gone with something smaller?

Don: It's a safety issue. What if a container ship breaks loose from it's moorings? I would want them to have a fighting chance in the weight department.

Wendy: What are the chances of a container ship drifting up on to the freeway?

Don: It's not only that. Suppose a meteor comes streaking out of the sky and hits the road right in front of them? Most cars wouldn't stand up to that. In a big SUV there's some measure of protection against meteors and ocean freighters and volcanoes, also.

Wendy: (vo) But this concern isn't limited to the owners of the biggest cars. One gentleman driving a medium sized family sedan said the transportation needs of his pre-teens has made the high price of gas especially hard to take.

Family Guy: We run around so much we're stopping to fill up about 3 or 4 times a day. Usually between hockey and dance, just before swimming and right after violin lessons.

Wendy: That must be terribly expensive. Where do you find the money?

Family Guy: I've had to rely on income from sources I wasn't expecting to use. Do you have a boyfriend?

Wendy: Uh … why do you ask?

Family Guy: If he's in the market for a man's watch … I have a beauty here.
It's available for a song. Really.

Wendy: But that's your watch, isn't it?

Family Guy: It doesn't have to be.

Wendy: (vo) But it wasn't just the drivers of big cars who were desperate and a little spooky. Even this woman, who declined to give her name, was upset, and she drove a very small vehicle.

Woman: I'm just barely making my loan payment. So now with these gas prices, I have to choose between continuing to pay for a car I can't afford to run, or continuing to run a car I can't afford to keep.

Wendy: Gee! How do you make a choice like that?

Woman: Easy. If I keep on paying for the car and park it, I can't get to work and the money dries up and I lose everything.
On the other hand, if I buy gas and skip the loan payments, the car will be repossessed, then I can't get to work, the money dries up and I lose everything. So that makes it simple.

Wendy: (vo) No one is immune to the pain of high gas prices.
Truckers have been especially hard hit. I found some with their big rigs, engaged in a park-in outside a Congressman Loomis Beechly's local office.

(sfx: big rig idling)

Trucker: Basically the message here is … I've got a big truck, and when I park it and let it run, it stinks and annoys everybody.

Wendy: What would it take to get you to move the truck?

Trucker: It would take an immediate cut in the gas tax to make that happen.

Wendy: How about just turning the truck off? What would it take to get you to do that?

Trucker: He'd have to propose the tax cut for sure.

Wendy: How about unhooking the hose from your exhaust pipe …

Trucker: The one that's shooting diesel fumes up towards his office window?

Wendy: Yes, what would it take to get you to unhook that?

Trucker: Just an acknowledgment … if he'd come out here and talk to us.
Even him just tumbling out the door, choking, would be a positive sign.

(sfx: idling crossfade w/ traffic)

Wendy: One thing is for sure … Economics is an up and down business. When the price of gas goes up, patience goes down. And when the price of gas goes down, the size of cars goes up, and when the cost of running those cars goes up, acceptance of the status quo goes down, and unless we can get down to business and use up less gas, which will make consumption go down, everybody is likely to be more fed up than ever before, which is a prospect that gets some people down.
I'm Wendy Vapors, and I'm reporting.


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