Wednesday, August 31, 2005
While driving home from the airport today, I noticed long lines of cars at several gas stations. I wondered why. I knew Katrina was expected to have some effect on gas supplies, but I hadn't heard about a serious crisis.
As I got near my home, I noticed the price for unleaded at the nearby station was $3.19 per gallon. The last time I bought gas, I think it was around $2.50, so that's quite a bump.
I haven't worried much about gas prices up until now. I live three miles from work, and one mile from the grocery store, so I only need to fill my tank once or twice a month. But experts are claiming that $4/gallon is coming, and if a fill-up costs more than $40, I'll definitely take notice.
I don't know what this will mean for aviation fuel prices. I burn about $35 worth of aviation fuel for every hour of flying lessons. Fuel is included in the cost of airplane rental, so I don't really worry about it. Rental prices may rise, or a fuel surcharge may be added.
Later that same day...
I figured all those people waiting in line were crazy. Nothing in the news indicated that we were in any immediate danger of running out of gasoline. But, my car only had a quarter of a tank left, so at 11:00 PM, I decided it might be prudent to go fill up while all those crazy people were going to bed.
The first gas station I visited, one mile away from my apartment, had no gasoline for sale. Uh-oh.
Around the corner was another gas station. Again, the pumps were shut down because the tanks were empty.
So I widened my search. The station three miles away had no gas. I checked another five miles away—no gas. At that point, I decided that I shouldn't waste any more gas looking for gas. I'd just need to conserve what I had, and wait to see what happened over the next few days.
I took an alternate route home, which I knew would take me past a few more stations. Lucky me: the fifth gas station had gas! There were a few people in line ahead of me, but I was able to fill up after a few minutes. And at "only" $2.90/gallon (20 cents cheaper than the prices at most of the places that had no gas).
A guy nearby announced to everyone that filling up his big pickup's tank had cost $110. It made me glad that I don't drive that gas-guzzling Mustang any more.
As I returned home, I passed two more stations which had no gas. So that's six out of seven gas stations without fuel.
I hope this was just temporary insanity on everyone's part. The thought of gas prices rising has never bothered me, but it never occurred to me that availability would be a problem. As I drove around looking for fuel, I thought about what I'd have to do if gas was unavailable for a few days. I could make the three-mile drive to work for a while, but I'd probably need to give up the 40-mile round trips to the airport for flying lessons. I also thought about what would happen if gas were unavailable for a week or more; that would definitely cause a change in my lifestyle.
This is going to make me think a little about each trip I make from now on. I've been keeping track of my car's mileage, so I know how far a tank will take me. I know the difference in mileage I get depending upon whether the air-conditioning is on or off. I may need to start planning my car trips with the same care I plan a cross-country airplane trip.
And I'm going to stop taking gasoline for granted.
With plane rentals... when you are training it's no big deal to get the plane wet.. since you are doing a lot of pattern work.. and staying under 3k.. but when you rent for your own long distance flying you should be able to save money/gas by renting it dry... since you can climb and lean out to get the best burn rate.
Sandy tells me that CNN reports that Atlanta has a 10-day supply of gas. Things will likely get worse before they get better.
If I were you, I'd skip an airplane lesson and buy a new bike.
Unfortunately, riding a bike in my area is not very practical. There are no bike lanes or sidewalks between me and my office, so I'd be sharing the narrow roads with drivers going 50 MPH.
That is, until the gasoline gets too expensive, then you'll be sharing the roads with bikes and drivers going 30 MPH.