If you own a car, you have been subjected to ridiculous gas prices in recent months, and you probably feel like you need to take out a second mortgage each time you fill up your gas tank. You have also likely heard by now that oil companies recently reported record profits for the first quarter of this year. Getting sick of it? Me too.
The factors influencing the pricing of gas are widely varied and complex, and they often leave us feeling victimized and helpless. After all, what control do you have over oil speculation? Middle East stability? Hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico? What about the summer tourist season? The declining dollar? The Giants inability to provide any run support to their pitching staff? (Okay, that one’s probably not related but it’s still a question that needs to be answered.)
I don’t pretend to understand all the economic and political influences on the price of gasoline, but when all is said and done, there is still a fundamental element of supply and demand at the core of the gas price issue. A recent AP article indicated that oil “plunged” below the $100 per barrel mark this week (about a 9% decline) because speculators anticipated weakening U.S. demand. Yay? Yes, yay!
Inasmuch as demand still has some influence on the price of gas, consumers as a group can have an impact. There are those societal macro-trends that we can only hope will keep demand in check: things like expanded public transportation options and mass production of hybrids and energy-efficient vehicles. But if you’re like me, you feel like you have about as much control over those things as you do over regime change in Libya.
So what can you do short of loading the wife and kids in the van and invading a small oil-rich country in the Middle East? You can make smart choices and small changes every day that will ultimately reduce your gas usage. You can find dozens of tips of gas-saving tips online, but for those of us in San Carlos, consider these simple examples.
When you have to go somewhere:
- Take one trip, not two (or three). Can your trip to Trader Joe’s wait until your prescription is ready at Walgreen’s? Better yet, can you stop at both places on your way home from the mall in Palo Alto tomorrow instead of making the extra trip today?
- Take the small car. Many families have multiple vehicles. Do you need the minivan to pick up one kid from soccer practice or could you take the Honda?
- Take the train. Public transportation won’t always work, but there are plenty of times it will. We have a Caltrain stop right here in San Carlos.
When you think you have to go somewhere, do you really have to or could you:
- Take a walk around the neighborhood. Get some exercise while you meet your new neighbors, get some exercise, and take advantage of the months of plentiful sunshine we have ahead of us.
- Take time to explore downtown. San Francisco is great, but there are plenty of great restaurants, stores, and services to enjoy right here in downtown San Carlos.
- Take a hike. You don’t have to go far to enjoy the beautiful outdoors. There are amazing trails and parks all over San Carlos just waiting to be visited.
With a little added awareness, conscious decision-making, and a few small but manageable adjustments in how you conduct our daily business, you can keep a few extra bucks in our pockets and send the oil companies a message. If you make these kinds of changes, you may or may not actually influence “demand”, but you will reduce your personal consumption and you will definitely spend less on gas than you otherwise would have – guaranteed.