Much to my surprise, I learned from a local news station that there is a upside to the recent and ongoing increase in the number of COVID-19 cases. Apparently, for economic reasons that I can’t quite understand (hey, don’t laugh at my lack of knowledge about the economy because I can diagram a sentence flawlessly), the increase in cases is causing gasoline prices to go down.
Apparently, the COVID surge is causing U.S. businesses to tell their employees to stop packing up their home desks because they’re staying home for a while longer. They can continue to hold staff meetings in their tighty whities as long as they are wearing a nice shirt. The lack of demand for gasoline (since workers are now only driving as far as the grocery store), coupled with the end of summer traveling, results in an increase in gas supplies and a decrease in price.
Don’t get your hopes up. The price drop is pretty minimal. It’s going from $telling-Jr.-he-can’t-go-to-college-because-the-Suburban-needs-a-fill-up all the way down to $putting-off-the-kitchen-remodel-even-though-the-appliances-are-white-and-electric so they can top off the Ford 150’s tank. The price only dropped a penny-and-a-half per gallon.
It seems like we have been concerned about gas prices for most of my adult life. There have been dips, of course, and they have been appreciated. The theory is, however, that low gas prices lead to people driving more. I can’t support my opinion with facts (heck! the media does that all the time), but I don’t think gas prices have that much to do with the amount of driving people do. The United States is spread out. Entire European countries are smaller than many of our states. Rail travel is unavailable because it is too expensive to build railroad tracks that accommodate only passenger trains like they have in Europe. So our passenger trains have to stop often to let the trains-that-keep-America-in-food-and-air-fryers running. Mass transit is available in many larger cities, but it is clumsy and time-consuming. Just like when I commuted to work every day until I retired, when I look at cars during rush hour, they are mostly empty except for the driver.
Baby Boomers are old enough to remember the gas shortages of the 70s. Lines at gas pumps. Ridiculous interstate speed limits of 55 mph. But people — including me — sat in the gas lines and drove the interstate highways anyway. What else could we do?
When I turned 16 in 1969, I could fill up my parents’ car at about 35 cents a gallon. I remember “riding the mains” in my small town one weekend night with my best friend in her parents’ car. She wanted to replace the gas she used, but she only had a dime. We went to the gas pump at the bottom of the viaduct that went over the railroad tracks, and she put in a dime’s worth of gas. Don’t get me wrong. Even in 1969, a dime didn’t buy you much gas. But nowadays, it would be next to impossible to even be able to stop the gas pump at a dime. At least she had enough gas to get home.
It is my most fervent hope that there is a time soon when gas is once again below three bucks a gallon and COVID-19 cases are few and far between.