Thursday, June 2, 2011

Gas Prices: Still Not Ceasing to Amaze Me

It may have escaped your notice that I'm a little bit obsessed with oil prices. They're important to me, because oil prices are directly related to gas prices, and gas prices are directly related to how much discretionary income I have to buy vodka.

$58 a gallon!
 A brief digression: I found the above number on this amazing website, which thoughtfully posts the price per gallon of a whole bunch of common liquids, based on retail prices of their commonly available unit. So while I'm a bit taken aback that I currently spend 16 times more for vodka vs. gasoline, I'm glad that my alcohol of choice is not in the form of vanilla extract, which retails for the equivalent of almost $128 per gallon, or Cover Girl nail polish, which runs to an astounding $893 per gallon! Windex would be a much cheaper buzz, at roughly $10 a gallon (but I think that's actually ammonia and not alcohol - note to self: check that out before imbibing).

Anyway, fun website. Check it out. Back to rant.

My position on the whole oil prices vs. gas prices thing is simple: Oil prices are high because commodities speculators are a bunch of greedy douchebags, and gas prices are high because oil company executives are a bunch of greedy douchebags. But oil company executives are bigger greedy douchebags. This, according to the findings of a new study that I just now conducted.

Even a math idiot like yours truly understands that when Big Oil's raw material (crude oil) gets more expensive, gasoline gets more expensive. I've eaten McDonald's hamburgers, and I've eaten good hamburgers, and I totally get why McDonald's is so affordable.

Because clown meat is cheap and plentiful.
 But Big Oil wants us to believe that $100 a barrel crude oil is not only more expensive than $50 a barrel crude oil, but also costs more to refine. Therefore, the inflation rate of gasoline must outpace the inflation rate of oil (and conversely, any drop in commodities prices must produce a non-correspondingly small drop in retail gas prices).

Big Oil wants us to believe this for two reasons. First, the oil companies think we are all incredibly stupid and should demonstrate that by accepting their price gouging. Second, to paraphrase what oil company executives told Congress during hearings in April 2008 and May 2011, "Fuck you, we like money."

Also, frickin' sharks with frickin' laser beams
attached to their frickin' heads.
So we're coming up on the third anniversary of the day that both crude oil and gas prices hit their all-time highs. On July 7, 2008, oil closed at $147 a barrel. Holy crap, $147. That's like two and a half gallons of vodka! And the nationwide averge price for a gallon of gas that day was $4.11. You know, I get about 22 miles per gallon out of my Bug in city traffic, and I know a lot of people in that radius whom I would not spend $4.11 to see. Just saying.

Fortunately, even the douchebag commodities traders couldn't keep up the buggering at that level for long, and like their wholly inadequate peckers oil prices soon deflated considerably. Since mid-2008, they've been all over the freaking place: as low as $67 a barrel, and recently as high as $116. As of yesterday, the price of a barrel of oil was about $103.

Meanwhile, gas prices also have fluctuated, hitting a low of $1.61 a gallon in January 2009 (remember that? God, that was awesome), only to bounce back as the oil companies pretended that the little bit of oil produced by Libya and not particularly affected by the recent uprising there somehow made it way more expensive for a refinery in Texas to do its job. Yeah, I know, fuck me, you like money. I heard you the first time, Big Oil.

Again, I'm not a math person. I don't even like watching TV shows with numbers in the title. Sorry, "90210."

This show never had a chance with me.
 But I can do simple ciphering. Like this: Since that historical high in 2008, the price of a barrel of oil has gone down 30%. The price of a gallon of gas has gone down 8%. We can perform a comparative analysis on these two percentages and see that they defy every law of economics ever formulated since the beginning of civilization.  And since the world has been swimming in the cesspool of recession since 2008, and is still pretty much treading water there today, there's no increased demand or new billionaires who like to drink oil for breakfast to factor in. The oil companies have simply decided that it's fair and good to decrease gas prices by $1 for every $2.75 decrease in the cost of crude oil.

Of course, there are two sides to this coin, which I present in the interest of fairness and because they both make the oil companies look like assholes. In the last six months, crude oil has experienced a pretty significant upswing (because the brokers want us to think that democracy protests cause inflation). Since December 1, 2010, the price of a barrel of crude has increased by 21%. At the same time, the price of a gallon of gas has gone up...30%. I guess someone had to pay for all those BP bonuses that got handed out after the oil spill.

It gets better. From March 1 to June 1, crude oil went up by 5.5%. Gas prices went up by 10.5%, outpacing the actual increase in raw material price by almost 100%.

Suggestion for new ExxonMobil logo. Too subtle?
 Yes, I know you technically can't compare the price of crude oil to the retail price of gas on a same-day basis because crude oil is actually a futures price and doesn't take into account current inventories, production timelines, and the phases of the moon. Because if you did, you would see that the two prices actually track very closely and logically with only a brief lag time.  Like this.

Wow, they're like carbon copies of each other,
if by "carbon" you mean "bad acid trip"!
 That most excellent chart of actual prices comes from Gas Buddy, which lets you play merrily with oil and gasoline prices across time and space. Check it out; you'll feel like a Time Lord of jacked-up commodities prices.

By the way, both crude oil and gas have slipped recently. Industry analysts promise that the drop in gasoline prices will begin to accelerate. And I believe them. Or I will, as soon as I drink about $13.50 worth of vodka. I'm saving up for it right now.

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