Sunday, September 30, 2007

Letter to the Editor

In the small town where I live, we have a good old-fashioned daily local rag, the Watertown Daily Times. And naturally it has a Letters to the Editor section where anybody who can put words to paper can submit their opinion on anything they want. Left-wingnuts, right-wingnuts, True Believers, young earth creationists, global warming deniers all take their shots at free speech glory. And most of the time it's some of the funniest stuff in the paper. But there are times when a writer (or writers) are so off base, that I can't resist jumping in to point out the nonsense of their thesis.

Recently, a few people have written to the paper pointing out how high gas prices are in my town compared to neighboring communities. The reality is that it's just not true. But what prompted me to jump in is that they are missing the point entirely. So here, just for my fair readers, is my Letter to the Editor. (For my foreign friends, we price our gas in dollars per gallon. Yes, our prices are still ridiculously low compared to yours, which only heightens the irony of it all.)

Dear Editor,

To all of the letter writers decrying the perceived differences in gasoline prices from town to town, please stop. Your concerns over the price of energy are wholly misplaced. You need to do some analysis to figure out where your money is really going.

Just because you see prices are higher in Watertown than they might be in Juneau at a particular point in time does not mean that they are always higher. Personally, I find gas prices in Hustisford to be consistently (but not always) higher than Watertown. On the whole, I very rarely see a difference of more than five cents per gallon per week, either positive or negative. (Also, at $3 per gallon, 5 cents is less than 2 percent of the price, itself insignificant.) Let's begin our analysis then with the worst case, assuming that gas prices are always five cents more in Watertown than anywhere else. Next, let's assume you currently use 10 gallons of gasoline per week (520 gallons per year). Paying 5 cents more per gallon over the course of a year nets a grand total of: twenty-six dollars. Using 20 gallons per week? Fifty-two dollars.

Want to talk real money? Look at what you're driving. There's a good chance the automobile you drive is getting just 20 miles per gallon. And let's say, because of your gas guzzler, you consume 20 gallons per week (1400 gallons per year). Now drive a car getting 30 miles per gallon, which means you use 33% less gas. At $3 per gallon? A savings of $1386 per year. Now THAT'S real money. Scale it from there; no matter how you cut it, driving a fuel efficient car is the best way to save real money. And that's the bottom line.

And the punchline? The automakers make the greatest profit margin on the vehicles that use the most gasoline; your pickup trucks, SUVs and luxury cars. And insurance rates are typically higher for those vehicles than for economy cars. I don't hear any outcry over any of that.

Can't afford to buy a new car, even with all of the cost upside? Spend a few dollars to make sure your car is in fine tune, the tires are properly inflated, and slow down a little, and that perceived price disparity between Watertown and Sullivan will disappear. So stop being a victim and do something about it. Please.

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2 astute observations :

  1. lillipilli said...

    Great letter Rich, it's a shame talking sense is wasted on the senseless.

  2. Rudy McCormick said...

    Found this post interesting about 3 years late. Great post Rich...