Published June 19, 2022

Upside Down Under: Don’t be fuelish…

Written by
Marvin Baker
| The Dakotan
In the opinion of Marvin Baker
Marvin Baker
In the opinion of Marvin Baker
Marvin Baker

We’re all complaining about the price of gas these days and we have every right to do that. The price has never been this high and it’s killing any pay raise we might have gotten this year.

Gas prices will go up and down as most of us know and right now we’re in a quagmire. When are we going to get some relief?

This is, however, not unprecedented. My first memory of gas going out of control was in 1973. That’s when Saudi Arabia declared an oil embargo and it hit the United States, Canada, the U.K. and the Netherlands hard. There were long lines at gas stations and many of those refuelers ran out of gas, no pun intended.

That’s when the price of gasoline was a whopping 39 cents a gallon and the embargo forced it to increase to 53 cents a gallon. The entire situation created panic that lasted for well over a year.

But to ease the burden President Richard Nixon declared that speed limits across the United States would be reduced to 55 miles per hour for normal vehicles day or night. Nixon’s rationale was that if people drive slower, less gas will be consumed. The idea was two-fold, conserve fuel and spend less when you fill.

At that same time, a barrel of oil increased 300 percent from $3 per barrel to approximately $12 per barrel.

In 1976, Jimmy Carter was campaigning for president and he made a stop in Bismarck. I was there. I was a 17-year-old high school student who skipped school to see Carter at the Bismarck Airport. I don’t remember his speech so much, but I’ll never forget the motto; a barrel of oil for a bushel of wheat.

At the time, the average price of wheat was $3.33 a bushel. Had the embargo not happened, a barrel of oil would have been trading around $3, hence the barrel of oil for the bushel of wheat. It was Carter’s way of saying the price of crude oil needed to drop.

Also in 1976, I got my first job in which I actually got a paycheck. I was hired on at the local Peavey Eleva-tor and there was a gas pump in the alley between the elevator itself and the fertilizer shed. It wasn’t the most popular refueling station in Hazelton, but I did pump a fair amount of fuel. Back in those days it was all full service. Anyway, I distinctly remember the price on the pump. It was 53 cents per gallon.

As time went on, however, the price of gas continued to increase with ebbs and floes until we arrive at today. I never thought I’d see the day that it would cost $25 to fill the lawn mower gas tank.

Anyway, the point in all this is last Tuesday I had to make a business run to LaMoure. Living here in the northwest and driving to LaMoure in the southeast was a little shy of 300 miles. I had to take my Ford F-150. I love everything about that truck except the poor gas mileage.

I left with a full tank so I knew it was going to get me there and the 65 miles back to Jamestown. So on that stretch, I started looking for the best price where I could fill on my return trip. It happened to be Cenex in Edgeley where the price was $4.69 per gallon. I filled there and dropped $90 on the counter.

That was enough to get me home with a quarter tank to spare. And honestly, I thought it was going to be a lot worse than it was.

But because I had a whole day to make this happen, I backed off the speedometer like Nixon suggested in the ‘70s and as I drove down the highway, I noticed the gas mileage slowly increasing.

Unfortunately, I must have been the only dummy on the highway last Tuesday doing that because I saw numerous other F-150s literally fly past me on U.S. Highway 52 and U.S. Highway 281. I saw a couple of Ram trucks hauling; one a boat, the other an enclosed trailer. They certainly weren’t driving 65 as the speed limit points out.

Those guys were clipping along somewhere between 75 and 80 in a 65 zone. It’s not so much the speed to consider here, it’s the consumption of gas at that speed with that large an engine.

On the way back, there was a young couple in a Dodge Viper with Saskatchewan license plates that zipped past me at quite a speed. I would assume they were traveling 130 or 140 kilometers per hour, which is 86 miles per hour in the United States.

It’s interesting that with all the complaining everyone does about the price of gas, why doesn’t anybody slow down so it wouldn’t cost so much? Either they don’t care, they don’t realize that even if they slow down 5 miles per gallon, it will save fuel, or they are rich enough that it doesn’t really matter.

The thing is, if you are going to be flying down the highway at warp speed with a yacht in tow, don’t be complaining about the price of gas.

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