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Column shortage could cost you more at the newsstand

September 05, 2005|by TIM ROWLAND

· Commentary

I will be out of town for the next week, hence there will be a shortage of columns written by me. This does not mean that I will not write columns in the future, nor does it subtract from the number already written. But since there will be a shortage, real or imagined, it is my regret to inform you that you must now pay $2.25 for this newspaper.

At least that's what I'd be telling you if I were an oil company.

The real victims in all this gas nonsense are the employees at Sheetz, who must be getting tennis elbow from changing the gasoline prices every 20 minutes. I mean, how many times per hour can you haul out the aluminum pole with the suction cups to change the price without feeling as if you should be making the same wage as a U.S. steel worker?

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You have to admit, the oil companies have this scam down great. Time was, you had to base your profiteering on the actual number of barrels in hand. Now, who needs solid, economic data? If Exxon-Mobile's Ouija Board foresees darkening karma, they fax the Tiger Mart to add another quarter on the gallon.

You see all the oil execs interviewed on CNBC and they're saying, "Yeah, yeah, it's a shame 20,000 people are now living on the 40 yard line and all, but what about us? This perceived shortage might force us to accept obscenely higher profits until we get our refineries back on line, which we promise to do as soon as we finish this caviar and toast point."

Interesting how President Bush steadfastly refused to tap into the strategic oil reserve to ease the prices consumers were paying at the pump, but the second his boys with the oil refineries were in danger of losing profits, he couldn't open the valves fast enough.

But say, isn't this the dream scenario environmentalists were begging for a few years back - $3-a-gallon gasoline? Then everyone would buy Toyota Echos and ride their bikes and take public transportation and the planet would be saved.

But I don't hear much rejoicing from the greens - they probably never considered that, along with everyone else, it would make THEM buy Toyota Echos and ride their bikes and take public transportation.

Or maybe they no longer believe saving the planet to be a worthy goal. Everyone saw the footage of the dudes stealing the wide-screen TVs, which they are planning on plugging in - where? The grid's not coming back up for months. I swear, looters just don't think things through the way they used to.

Seriously though, a lot of people want to assist, and I received a press release from Congress that offers "ways for us to help," including:

1. Pray

2. Keep your tires properly inflated.

Good old Congress, always on top of things. Although much as I might prefer cash or food over a prayer, I understand the value of people who are always there to lend a hand in any inexpensive way they can.

But I'm more interested in the tire-inflation paradigm at the moment.

There were some other gas-saving tips I thought were interesting, especially Congressional Tip No. 7, which states: "Keeping your car washed and waxed improves aerodynamics and therefore affects fuel economy. Engineer Tom Wagner Jr. reported to Stretcher.com (as in stretching your dollars) a 7 percent improvement in fuel economy, from 15 to 16 mpg, during a 1,600-mile road trip."

Really? It's possible, I suppose. But it seems to be the vehicle of engineer Tom Wagner Jr. must have been Very, Very Dirty to realize such an increase. In fact, I'm thinking that engineer Tom Wagner Jr. must have had a family of live prairie dogs living on his hood to explain the amount of grime that would cause such a dent on the ole mpg.

Besides, waxing the car is so labor-intensive. It's much easier to send a little jack to the Red Cross, which to its credit Congress also recommends: Log onto www.redcross.org, call 1-800-HELP NOW (435-7669) or write American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Or if you prefer, you can just fly over the area in a plane.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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