In California, We Trade Chips For Gas
By Stephen M. Lawton
in to work today, I heard a report that gasoline prices in the past week
dropped an average of 7 cents nationally. Really? Last time I checked,
they were going up again. In fact, I'm paying well in excess of $2 a gallon,
as are many of the drivers in the Golden State.
In the Midwest, however, prices fell
another 17 cents a gallon to $1.45. Even though drivers in Wisconsin were
paying well over $2 a gallon a few weeks ago, federal intervention has
boosted the supply so that now prices are far lower. Still, one driver
interviewed on the radio was complaining that they are still much higher
than the 99 cents a gallon he paid a year ago at this time.
What's the trade-off that makes it
fair for Washington to allow our prices to remain sky-high while they
pull petroleum from the national reserves for Midwesterners? I'd have
to say it's the price of technology. Let's take a look at an example.
I selected a computer reseller in
Chicago at random. The company sells a basic system for $600 with a 400MHz
Celeron, a 4.3GB drive, 32MB RAM and all the usual amenities. For that
same $600 in Silicon Valley, you can get a 533MHz Pentium III, 64MB RAM
and a 10GB drive. So if you live in California, you can get a great deal
OK, that's great. But once I buy my
computer, I don't get another after typing 200 words. I will buy gas after
driving 200 miles. Let's see if you live in California, you can
save $200 on your computer. When you consider that we pay about $2 a gallon,
that's 100 gallons. In other words, if you buy a computer in California,
you save enough money to drive your SUV for about two weeks. Lucky us.
When prices rose in the Midwest, the
national news was all over the story and moved not only members of Congress,
but the president himself. When prices rose here, no one in Washington
looked up from their martini.
Incidentally, why don't we get the
benefits of lower gas prices since we make reformulated gas here in the
Golden State? In fact, I can see the fires at Tosco from my office window.
I can't wait to see what Congress
will do next. By the way, if you drive one of those nifty hybrid cars
like Toyota's Prius those extra 100 gallons could take you
all the way to Washington where you could tell at your representative
just what he or she can do with those gas subsidies for the Midwest.
I guess the moral is: The next time
one of your computers dies and you buy a new one, not only can you shove
a few extra bucks into your tank, put the old computer in there too.