Monday, April 30, 2007

Gas Prices are Endangering Low-Income Workers...Are We Next?

What is up with the gas prices. If someone could explain in Laymen’s terms I would really like to know.

About two months ago it was $2.35 per gallon. Then I heard on the news they were going to put a tax on the gas to help with the casinos which were to be built over the next few years. Um, the casino businesses proved they were going to bring business near this area (4 cities away) but they are going to raise the price of gas before they are even built? Ok, planning for us to pay for the casinos after all the meetings held about how they were not going to affect us? The next day I made sure to purchase gas so I would at least escape the initial raise. No, sorry, cannot do that since they raised the price of gas to $2.49 the very next morning!

When we moved here in October of 2007 the price of regular-unleaded (non premium) gas was $2.19. Up until April 25, 2007, it has fluctuated between $2.19 and $2.79 for unknown reasons but usually went back down. Now it is April 28, 2007 and gas is $2.85. Why is this happening? What went on in the world that we cannot have the reasonably priced gas we had before Hurricane Katrina? Just a few months ago I could fill up my gas tank with $20 and today it cost me $50.

I remember people complaining about regular unleaded gas reaching the price of $1.95 per gallon. That was not a decade ago or yesteryear, that was only a few years ago. People were worried about the price of gas reaching the top of $2.00 per gallon. I remember my parents watching the news in the early 70s about the rationing and price of gas.

I also remember traveling the weekend after Katrina. Gas was anywhere from $2.85 to $3.85 from the East Coast to Nashville, TN. Most gas stations were out of gas or would only allow you to pump up to $20. We were at the point we had to stop at every gas station we saw off the highway. Some were open for a very short period of time or closed due to non-delivery issues. There were a few very clever but annoying large gas station signs advertising gas for $1.99 per gallon. These turned out to be the gas stations with no gas available but wanted to lure travelers into there Mini Mart to purchase food or souvenirs.

Why does this upset me? I want to know why gas has sky rocketed without another catastrophe such as Katrina? This does not only affect our purchases at the pump but it has a direct effect on deliveries of any kind such as:
Mail (stamps price increase as it was suppose to but now might need more $ due to the gas prices)
School transportation
Daycare transportation
I understand why the companies for the above products and services have increased their prices. They are passing on their increased expenses.

Apparently the cost of natural gas for heat and other uses which is supplied from the US and no other country also sees fit to raise their prices based on the price of gasoline which is based on the price of crude oil. That is just ridiculous!! These companies think that just because people hear the price of gas just went up they can raise their prices as well? They are not delivering the gas via trucks that run on gasoline, it comes via a pipe line. How dare they raise their prices based on a public thinking gas for vehicles is the same gas that goes into their heating and cooking.

The one thing not directly increased is the cost of living expenses for every day people. My goodness the cost of gas affects business but not the employees working at these businesses, their families or employees who just plain and simple work in America? Something has to be done to bring gas prices back affordable so the American people can afford to work and live in America. The alternative is to put out a blanket pay increase to all, government workers, private industry and make sure every person in America has an increase in pay equal to the increase in the gas prices. This will be a difficult task due to the daily or weekly in fluctuation of gas prices. Right after Katrina businesses said they would not increase pay for this increase in the cost of living due to their belief gas prices would settle back down to where they were previously. This is no longer the case, something needs to be done about the gas prices or increase wages across the board.

I searched on the web for the answer to why gas rationing happened in the 1970s. I was far too young to understand what was going on. All I remember from that time was what I saw on TV since my parents did not think it was a good idea to bring children to the gas station. There were long lines of cars and frustrated people all trying to get gas on “their day”. Even though my parents sent us to our rooms to play while they watched the news I would sneak out to see what was too scary for children. I recall watching a stand off between a man armed with a rifle and police. The man was angry that he sat in his car for most of the day only to be told the gas station ran out of gas. He did not want to leave until he had a full tank of gas. The sun must have been very hot that day and got to his head. If they have no gas at that station how were they going to fill up his tank?

Anyway, what I found out was on October 17, 1973 there was an embargo by OAPEC, Egypt and Syria against all countries (USA and allies) who assisted Israel in the Yom Kippur War also called the 1973 Arab - Israel War or The Fourth Arab - Israel War. This war went on for 10 days from October 6, - October 26, 1973. I did not see any mention of the United States but there was mention of the United Nations putting a cease-fire in place.

Here is what I found out about Natural Gas Prices from they are not my natural gas company but the first link that popped up in my search.
Factors That Drive Up Prices
Nationally, natural gas prices have more than doubled in the past three years, because the production of new gas supplies has not kept pace with increasing demand. Natural gas is increasingly popular for use in homes, businesses, factories and electric power-generation because it is efficient, clean and reliable. This demand/supply imbalance has sharply increased market prices over the past three years. Excuse me but my bill went from $126 per month to $600 in just 3 months!
Natural gas is one of the most volatile commodities traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange, or Nymex. National market prices fluctuate widely, up and down, depending on such factors as hotter-than-normal southern weather, and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which disrupted the production and pipeline transportation of natural gas from the Gulf of Mexico. Also, the cost of competing fuels, such as oil, can impact natural gas prices. Does this mean when the price of oil goes up so will natural gas? Why?

I am thankful to have a job with decent pay. The rise in gas prices is only cutting into my spending money at the moment but imagine the impact it has on people who are already living pay check to pay check. I found an article where a woman is considering MOVING closer to her daughter’s daycare due to the cost of gas!
Can you imagine having to actually MOVE due to the price of gas?
If gas prices continue on the rise and workers pay remains relatively the same what is to happen to people like Ana Rosales who may have to move? Low income workers who are already at the brink of finial disaster? Some people may look down on those who are low income but I realize we need them at their jobs to function in our every day lives. Here is just a quick short list of low paying jobs which affect my normal week:
Cashier at the grocery store
Gas Station attendant
Office Cleaning Team
Utility Call Center employees
School Janitor
School Cafeteria workers
Daycare assistants
Hotel cleaning staff
Receptionist at the Dr./Dentist/ any company I deal with
The cashier and stock personnel at the local pet supply store
The clerks at the local clothing stores
The waiters and waitresses at the restaurants we frequent

When will the price of gas and its effect on other products and services reach beyond just my spending money? What will I have to cut back on? How much will it cut into the quality of life my family has become accustomed to? Sure, extra curricular activities will have to go first but then what? Will it eventually reach the point that I have to trust substandard daycare with my child? Yes, I am thinking about myself and my family. I am too afraid to consider all that will happen to people who are not as fortunate as we are. You may think I am being too dramatic about what could happen. I am a parent and it is up to me to figure out our budget and about the ‘what ifs’ that life throws at us. I want to keep our heads above water. It is frightening to hear what so many low income families are going through. If it can happen to them it can happen to us as well.

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