by John R. Stiles

I know this is gonna sound like a fairy tale for most of today's generation, but I can still remember when three or four guys could get together on a Friday night, borrow one of our folks' cars and fill the gas tank on pocket change. Of course that was back when gas, before this wimpy unleaded junk, was running between 19 and 25 cents a gallon. You only got about 10 miles to the gallon, what with four-barreled carburetors and the like, but it was good for a few hundred trips around the loop on a Friday or Saturday. And that's about how many circuits we'd make too.

And the cars seemed cooler back then, especially '57 Chevys. None of those cookie cutter, sawed off prefab sport's jobbies. Just who can figure out the brand of cars people are driving today. Everybody's model looks just like somebody elses? Ya' know, we were being set up back in my day. The big oil companies, like Standard, Shell and the like, were baitin' us with cheap gas (at four or five gallons to the buck) just so's they could get us hooked. Now look at the price a gas. And also look at the kinds a cars we've become use to driving. What with your SUVs and giant models that do everything but actually drive you there. But then you knew it had to happen. The American auto industry gets us addicted to gas guzzling monsters and then the Persian Gulf and other oil producing nations put a choke hold on the supply. Talk about your ingrates.

Now lemme' get this straight. America goes and stirs up most of the rest of the civilized world -- those also addicted to oil -- to kick some tin horn Iraqi dictator out of Kuwait and protect Saudi Arabia from the same fate and just a decade later the same people we risked our rear ends to protect are stickin' it to us at the gas pumps. Makes ya' wonder just what all that was really about, don't it? Two of the bigger members of OPEC, which really stands for Over Priced for Extravagant Consumption, are still in business today because some American and other allied nation kids put their butts on the line to make it happen. And then every once in a while we're left salivating with promises that OPEC is gonna boost its output to ease the price crunch. How come is it that they always tell us that any drop in the price per barrel of oil will take a few weeks to make it to the gas pump but when they jack 'em up it always seems to come overnight?

When's the last time somebody warned us that the price of gas was going to jump 20 cents tomorrow? But, just let OPEC hint that it's about to turn up the flow of oil, and every suit with a hand-held calculator between here and Dubai will make sure and remind us that ''any easing in prices will take three to four weeks to reach the consumer.'' Next thing ya' know they'll have a bridge to sell us.

So, how many times are we gonna fall for that one. And just how much more would it have cost us to be buying our oil from the Iraqis after they overran the entire Arabian peninsula? I know we'd have saved a whopping bill for Operation Dessert Shield and Storm. And the latest wrinkle is that the Midwest finds itself paying the nation's highest gas prices. You don't suppose that has anything to do with the big MTBE boondoggle do ya'? The oil companies just happen across the fact that their petroleum-based clean air additive for gasoline (MTBE) is polluting water supplies coast to coast, and the only alternative -- ethanol -- is so much more expensive to ''reformulate?'' Then how come at most of the pumps I've seen with ''unleaded-plus'' (ethanol) the price was a few cents cheaper than ''unleaded?''

Guess that only works in the Midwest, which is closest to the source of the additive, corn. But nobody really thinks that the oil companies, who believe their MTBE is getting an wrap, would purposefully stick it to we here in the Midwest? Who could suggest such a thing about big oil corporate leaders? Can anybody say tobacco?

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online July 25, 2000

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