September 24th, 2008
Roadblocks and Interference
As Congress meets today and tomorrow to grill the principals before Friday’s vote on the $700 billion “emergency” Wall Street bailout plan (which has been in the works for months but strategically dumped on us all as an “emergency”), oil companies have instituted “rolling shortages” all over the Southeast. Some areas have been out of gas for more than a week and a half, and the situation is not expected to ease until Monday at the latest. Some gas – a single tanker at a time – is being delivered to stations along the Interstates and is being strictly rationed unless it’s diesel, one station per county.
State police are managing the gas lines to prevent violence, which did break out last week in the Nashville, Tennessee area when people started cutting in line. Food prices are rising so fast the stock boys at the grocery stores can’t mark up the goods fast enough, and the specter of looming fuel shortages for winter heat – or price increases that will force people to do without – is beginning to look very scary.
Bailout or no bailout – and despite the launch of FBI investigations of Fannie Mae, Freddy Mac, Lehman Brothers and AIG – the United States may well be fully in the clutches of major economic depression before winter even hits. Whether or not that translates to global recession isn’t much of an issue to regular people, as we here in our own homes wonder how we will survive. This post and several following posts in a new series will take a look at the steps citizens should take as soon as possible to ensure their families will make it through the next 6 months. If depression goes on longer than that, additional strategies will be necessary, some already compiled as series in this blog and available under the “Our Most Popular” header on the left side of the page.Alternative economics, Alternatives, Bank Failures, Economic Depression, Energy, Fuel, Government Bailouts, Inflation, Surviving | Comment (1)
August 4th, 2008
Transportation Costs Hit the ‘New World Order’
The Sunday New York Times offered an in-depth analysis on August 3 by Larry Rohter entitled, Shipping Costs Start to Crimp Globalization.
A decade ago oil was going for $10 a barrel and “outsourcing” manufacturing facilities and jobs to low-wage regions of the Third World began to hit American labor hard. We were all told we must simply adjust to a whole new, world-wide way of doing things, and damn the torpedoes that were decimating labor unions and sending millions of skilled Americans into the minimum wage ranks of burger-flippers and WalMart greeters just to (not quite) get by.
Oil is trading today [Aug. 4] for just over $121 a barrel, down quite a bit from just a month ago when speculators bid it up to $138. The drop is attributed to falling demand as conservation kicks in on the user front. $4 a gallon gasoline and $5 a gallon diesel has cut into fuel consumption big time this summer as regular people choose not to drive if they don’t have to, and transportation fleets pool schedules to ensure their trucks, trains and ships aren’t wasting a drop. According to Rohter the big ocean-going container fleets have slowed down 20% to save on fuel costs, which translates into substantially slower turnaround on the goods.
We all recognize that greatly increased shipping costs as reflected in the upside-down cost of diesel fuel (remember when diesel was always a dollar LESS than gasoline?) must translate into an increase in the price of everything that moves by means of diesel fuel. This means inflation in every sector, at a time of stagnant wages, joblessness and increasing costs of basic transportation, heating and cooling for the average citizen.Bank Failures, Economic Prognostication, Economic Recession, Fuel, Inflation, Transportation | Comment (0)
June 26th, 2008
As the ever-rising price of fuel puts a serious dent in consumer budgets (and summertime vacations), it’s a good time for remembering good advice from the past as well as new advice for the present on how to keep your shoestring budget from being hopelessly busted.
1. Mass Transiting
If you live in a city or suburb with access to mass transit, USE IT. The cost of bus, train or subway fare is less than the cost of gasoline plus wear-and-tear on your vehicle for those same miles. Plus, if you can test on the means criteria, you can get subsidy for mass transit to and from work every day.
Plus many cities offer “express” transit from suburban hubs to the inner city (bus main depot and transfer station). This means the bus doesn’t stop every 4 blocks along the way, and you can get to work or home often in about the same time it takes to commute in your car during peak traffic hours (the express buses generally use less congested routes).
Carpool to and from work if you can. Big employers often have bulletin boards in the break room where people can request for carpooling, and many metropolitan areas provide relatively ‘safe’ long-term parking lots along freeway entrances reserved for carpoolers or express mass transit. This means the people you’re pooling with don’t have to pick everyone up at their homes, but can just pick up and drop off the participants at one location. Regular buses stop at these locations as well, so you can bus to the pick-up and home again.
Carpooling requires out-of-pocket expense just like mass transit does (unless your employer happens to provide the van and gas). It is as cheap or cheaper than driving yourself, as everyone shares the costs. Even if you share a ride with a single co-worker living nearby your costs go down by half.
This requires firm work-scheduling so your participation doesn’t get screwed by your petty tyrant middle-management boss, but many workplaces are beginning to understand that unless they want to give employees a big enough raise to cover transportation inflation, they’d better be accommodating. Some localities offer municipal bulletin boards on the ‘net that allow you to hook up with others who live and work in your area (but not the same place) for carpooling.Alternatives, Farmer's Markets, Fuel, Inflation, Transportation | Comment (0)
June 9th, 2008
Last month I asked the question, Is It Depression Yet? and linked quite a few opinions of economic pundits about when the recession no one in DC cares to admit we’re in will turn into a full-fledged depression.
In going down the list of ominous signs that we’re going down for the third time, the key ingredient apart from a burst credit bubble was rising oil prices. Well, this last weekend gasoline went over $4 a gallon, and diesel was pushing $5. So while families and workers in cities can start taking mass transit to work and school and just stay home this summer instead of driving to the Grand Canyon, the price of diesel – which runs all our shipping fleets, trucks and trains – is going to cause swift inflation in the price of food as well as everything else that is transported from here to there. It is no longer a wild conspiracy theory that oil will go to $200 a barrel, now projected by the end of this year and possibly right around election time. It could hit $150 this month and no one will be shocked.
Thus I read with interest an article in the June 9 New York Times entitled Rural U.S. Takes Worst Hit as Gas Tops $4 Average. A survey by the Oil Price Information Service did a survey which showed that the price of gasoline has its biggest impact on rural areas, particularly in the Southeast, and that for the people euphemistically called the “working poor” the cost of just getting to work and to the store is quickly eating as much of their income as food and housing. Since their incomes are not rising and aren’t likely to rise, the situation for people in rural areas of the south, New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas will soon become a choice between food and transportation.Alternatives, Brand New Used, Economic Prognostication, Economic Recession, Energy, Fuel, Surviving, Transportation | Comments (8)
May 13th, 2008
As we start moving into summer I thought it might be interesting to take a look at some economic predictions made way back in 2007 by an “informed” opinionator over at Sustainable Living’s Natural Hub, a Q&A piece entitled Timing of a depression triggered by high oil prices.
An Overview of unfolding recession as the oil economy fades was published in 2006 explaining the various factors that would mark a worldwide recession due to increasing oil prices. Some of its indicators have long since come and gone, others have been with us for years already, and some of the predictions have come true in these last few months. For those of us living in the real world, recession and ‘stagflation’ have been facts of life for years despite the mainstream news media’s reluctance to actually use the word when reporting on where speculators have taken futures on oil and food supplies lately. They won’t use the ‘D’ word either [depression], but here’s a list of signs that it’s already upon us.
Sign 1. “For there to be a deep recession, there first has to be a credit bubble – a high level of personal indebtedness in the community.”
Well, this one’s sure a no-brainer! Hopefully most readers of this blog have made real efforts to minimize or get out from under personal debt over the past few years (exempting mortgage issues), or were never deeply in debt in the first place. Those who consolidated credit card and other installment loan debts by refinancing when the mortgage boom was on may be facing serious issues with that mortgage now, but that’s such a huge issue that if mortgage debt is the biggest of your worries, you’re doing pretty well.
Continue reading »
May 1st, 2008
The market news reports that consumer spending is up again this month. The problem is that this is not as a sign of possible economic recovery from the deepening recession we find ourselves in. It’s a reflection of the fact that people must spend more on basics like fuel and food – prices for both rising much faster than regular people can keep up with – thus must spend less on all that consumer junk our capitalistic system expects us to buy with our overrated “disposable income.”
If you’re reading this blog, chances are you’re like me – I have no “disposable income” because all the income we have must go to simply pay for the necessities of life, and there’s hardly enough even cutting corners. Food, clothing, shelter, transportation, utilities. I have previously posted about the clothing thing, as I haven’t actually purchased new clothing for at least a decade. Used clothing is good enough – even suits and formal clothing – though I don’t dress up much. But the mortgage is what it is. Gas prices are what they are, they cannot be bargained down. And as the price of fuel rises, so does the cost of food and electricity. Thus more of our money must be spent on necessities, even if we never had any left over for junk in the first place!Bulk Buying, Economic Recession, Farmer's Markets, Fuel, Garden, Grow Your Own, Nutrition, Staple Foods, Surviving | Comments (7)
April 1st, 2008
Perhaps many readers have become aware of the looming worldwide food shortage, there was a story on NPR’s The World just Monday night (March 31) about rising tensions in the bread lines of Egypt. London’s Guardian reported this past November that the crisis can be attributed to climate change (crop failures and ag diversion of rice and wheat crops) and fuel shortages – both the increasing price of petroleum fuels for transportation and agriculture as well as the diversion of staple food crops like soybeans and corn toward biofuels production.
Soaring grain prices are now exploding into full-fledged food riots in many corners of the planet, while Americans are stunned by rising prices every time they go to the grocery store. As of December, 2007 the UN Food and Agricultural Organization reported that 37 countries face immediate food crises, and 20 nations had imposed some form of food-price controls. Reuters lays additional blame on panicked speculators trading on global futures markets in the wake of recession fears fueled by the increasing defaults among Wall Street’s investment banks and stock market gamblers.
But there is hope on the horizon, particularly for those of us who were smart enough to purchase diesel powered vehicles, despite the ruinous and increasing costs of gasoline. That hope is a new source for producing biodiesel (which can run the entirety of our transportation system, including passenger cars if GM can be persuaded to come off their new diesel they’ve been sitting on in joint patent with the EPA).Alternatives, Biodiesel, Conscious Living, Economic Recession, Energy, Fuel, Green Living, Staple Foods, Transportation | Comment (1)
March 25th, 2008
Ford Prodigy, cutaway view of a ‘concept’ car we could someday be able to buy… maybe. Or not.
The 100 miles per gallon car. One that carries four adults, has all the safety features that protect in accidents but weigh a lot. Peter Diamandis’ X Prize Foundation has turned their focus from space travel to automobiles. The automotive X Prize went live in April of 2007 at the New York Auto Show with a $10 million award to the winning designers of a production-ready vehicle capable of exceeding 100 mpg.
It’s not that hard to get 100 miles per gallon if you don’t mind a seriously “minimalist” vehicle. Heck, if you make it lighter than a motorbike and gin it up with solar cells, it’s not that hard to get 1,000 miles per gallon (downhill, with a tailwind, driver lying flat). But the solar cell idea isn’t that bad, now that we hear there are new plastic coatings that will generate even in low-light situations. And what about a hood scoop to use the wind of forward motion to help charge those batteries too?Alternatives, Biodiesel, Conscious Living, Conservation, Economic Recession, Energy, Fuel, Mechanics, Transportation | Comment (1)
March 11th, 2008
I’ve added a new blog to my blogroll, Save Fuel – Save Money today. I don’t know about your locality, but gas is pushing $4 a gallon right here in my neck of the woods right now, and will probably go to $5 a gallon before summer tourist season hits. Or, more likely, doesn’t hit this year due to the prohibitive cost of gasoline. Which as of this morning, March 11, 2008, is trading on the futures market for $109 a barrel. It probably won’t be coming down.
Sure, Europe has had $5 gasoline for years now, but Europe’s not all that big. One can drive from one end of a country to the other in a few hours, and most European countries have reliable and comfortable mass transit systems. Things we don’t have in the U.S. if you don’t happen to live on either the right or left coasts. Worse, it takes me as many hours to drive to my own state’s coast as it takes me to drive to Florida and visit relatives! It takes two long driving days to visit Mom in Oklahoma, and I’ve friends in Arizona and California I haven’t seen in years because it’s just too far away.Alternatives, Biodiesel, Economic Recession, Ethanol, Fuel, Transportation | Comments (3)