Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Out of Control!

I'm quite sure I'm not the only one -or our family is far from alone right now -facing the ever increasing rise in gas and fuel prices. This is quickly eating away at our household expenses and creating total havoc in trying to set up and maintain any semblance of a budget for us.

My son-in-law, daughter and I each have a vehicle of our own -all of which, thankfully, are paid for too. Of course, that also means each vehicle is far from being new too and that means they may not be the best for fuel economy. But, when trying to balance having the number of vehicles we need against the disposable income available, buying used cars of questionable fuel economy is a luxury we can't afford.

And at the rate gas prices are rising, getting to and from work is liable to become a luxury that is unaffordable too in the near future.

Just running the furnace to keep the house at a warm -barely - temperature and providing hot water for bathing purposes is rapidly becoming very much of a luxury as well. Our fuel tank for the furnace here, which heats the house and our hot water simultaneously, has not had more than 100 gallons put into it at a click in close to two years now simply because we have not been able to afford to fill the tank and pay for that all at the same time. Even at that rate, getting a delivery of 100 gallons at a time has meant the cash outlay of over $300 each time we've ordered fuel.

This week, Mandy and Bill got their tax refund check and since we need to have more oil delivered, when she called yesterday to order oil, she thought perhaps she could get the tank filled completely for a change. That is, until she found out how much it would cost to have it filled. The price to fill the tank to capacity -about 275 gallons I believe -would have cost her over $800. And that, she decided was more than she wanted to use of their tax refund at this point in time. Getting a delivery of 100 gallons will take us through now till probably the end of May, provided April and May aren't too harsh, temperature-wise.

But this expense is absolutely obscene!

As much as we struggle to buy the fuel for the furnace and have enough left to put gas in the vehicles so Mandy and Bill can get back and forth to work, how on earth can those who have only one income and who are at the very bottom of the pay scales be expected to cover the cost of the roof over their heads -rent or a meager mortgage (if such a thing does in fact even exist today)- and then cover heating their homes and manage to get back and forth to a job -if that job even stays in existence with the ever increasing fuel prices today?

We've been told there are various reasons why the gas and heating oil is increasing this way - the war, OPEC, gas-guzzler vehicles, people just wasting gas by not car pooling or using public transportation and not controlling the heat levels too in their homes. We've also been told that some of the fault for these increases too lies in the oil refineries that were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. All plausible excuses, I suppose.

However, what I don't understand is this: how can the oil companies keep increasing the costs to the consumers and still be reporting record profits at the same time? To my way of thinking and understanding, if the oil companies are struggling to keep afloat due to increased costs by OPEC or because of expenses in rebuilding from Katrina, then why are they reporting also these record profits too?

If I have "x" number of expenses that MUST be paid out each month, and something happens to break down in the house -requiring a large outlay to make the repairs, those repairs must be paid for out of what income is available or a loan must be secured to cover the expense. If that leaves less money available then -which of course it will -to cover other expenses such as clothing or medical bills or just general operating expenses, the majority of us will forgo purchasing anything that is not considered to be an absolute necessity, for openers. Plus, very few people have the luxury of being able to turn to their employer and request an increase in wages every time the oil companies raise the prices of gas and fuel oil.

But that doesn't seem to be an issue for the oil companies who keep telling us the rise in the fuel prices is due to OPEC or repairs needed because of Katrina. It sure doesn't seem to have them tightening their budgets and certainly is not apparently affecting their bottom line -that good old profit to their stockholders, does it?

How long can the country, the people here, continue to be held hostage by the oil companies?

At the rate we are going now, the incessant rise in gas prices is going to keep increasing food costs, housing costs, manufacturing costs and to cover those expenses, people or businesses are going to cut back more and more and more until there is nothing left to cut back, and what happens then?

I don't know how others feel about this -especially about the incongruity between gas prices to the consumer and the record profits oil companies are showing -but unless something drastic takes place -and very soon - I really fear this country is heading towards a major financial disaster and possibly even a total collapse of our economy.


The Shack said...

I agree with your comments about the oil companies. And part of the problem also is the commodity traders who buy and sell contracts for oil before the likes of Exxon ever even get a hold of them. It is all about greed anymore. People that have money just want more, at the expense of the rest of us who have no way to get more money short of winning the lottery. Our country touts democracy and capitalism, but I'm not capitalism is such a good thing. It might work OK if it weren't for greed...people might be satisfied with a modest profit. But everyone just wants more...no amount of money is enough for the rich folks, and the rest of us are paying for it.

molly gras said...

I have such strong and anxious feelings about everything you've mentioned (even with regards to what the shack as said) that I'm afraid I'm incapable of responding properly.

All I can say is that it's feeling a little deja vu-ish around here and I'm more than a little concerned that it won't be stock brokers jumping out of Wall Street windows this time -- it'll be the "everyman's" turn to jump!