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Community Forum: Let's show common sense and save our oil
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In response to your feature on finding the cheapest gasoline, I would suggest that the cheapest gasoline is that which is used most efficiently.

My Ford Focus five-speed gets a consistent 34 mpg, and with today's weak dollar and the resulting high prices, that's the only way I can afford to get around.

The other emphasis should be on conservation. I can understand that there are many who buy the pitch that the solution to the problem is more drilling. If you think of our oil reserves as money in the bank, or as a "buried treasure," then you should understand why it is a good thing to keep it for the future, and for our grandchildren's future, and not to suck it up and burn it up on 4,000-pound vehicles moving 150 pounds of human and getting 14 mpg.

Sure, you have every right to drive what you want to drive, and you have the right to burn as much gasoline as you can afford to buy. Maybe 35 cents a mile in gasoline costs is still not enough to slow you down. Or to think about a smaller, more efficient car. Fine. But don't expect that you can convince a majority of us that your largesse deserves our sympathy, or that we're going to buy your arguments to tap our future supply.

Let's keep that oil where it belongs: locked away for tomorrow. Let's try to find ways to conserve, and in the meantime, the market will take care of itself.

Oh, and don't buy into the novel idea about a "tax holiday." There is no such thing. It's just a gimmick. Think about it. That money goes for highway projects and maintenance. Remember the bridge that collapsed last year? Remember the stories about how many thousands of bridges around the nation were in poor repair?

Gas is now $4 a gallon. I believe the figure of "relief" is 16 cents a gallon. How long do you think it will take for the price to creep from the nontaxed $3.84 back up to $4? So where did the money to fix the bridges and roads go? Right to Big Oil. Right in their coffers.

But to suggest that those in power might have friends in the oil business? Why, that would be just too rude.

Thomas Payne
Flowery Branch

Oil industry workers reap benefits of costs
Are we in a recession, with a capital R? I've asked that question and approached it with the conventional economic standards. By those standards the country is not in recession even if some sectors of the economy and millions of average Americans are suffering.

The crude oil sector is not suffering any economic crisis as crude oil sells for $137 per barrel, a world record. At $137 per barrel and 21 million barrels consumed daily by the U.S. economy, crude oil sales have passed 7.5 percent of the economy. We would call such an oil-based economy very strong, but we are not an oil-exporting nation. Our nation buys oil. If oil prices were the same as 2002, we would be in a terrible depression.

At 2002 prices, crude oil would be only 1.5 percent of our national production. We can only wish our national production could match the 600 percent growth rate of unrefined, raw, crude oil in 30 gallon barrels.

As the price per barrel rises, and it has risen 600 percent since the beginning of 2002, our economy hasn't grown. Our economy is in a contraction when the growth in oil costs are reduced to normal prices, which would be the prices before the incursion into Iraq.

At the current prices, as a nation, we spend over a trillion dollars on crude oil as compared to $166 billion in 2002. Since 2002, in six years our economy has grown about $3 trillion. In unadjusted dollars, 57 percent of that growth was the sale of crude oil. Adding the sale of gasoline to the price of crude oil, all economic growth has been the inflation crude oil and gasoline prices.

The total annual sales of gasoline and crude oil at $137 per barrel and $4 per gallon would be $2.671 trillion dollars or 20 percent of GDP. Some 400,000 employees work in the petroleum industry. We have 304 million people living in the U.S. That's 304 million giving $2.671 trillion to 400,000.

I submit we have witnessed the largest transfer of wealth in the history of the U.S. and of all mankind.

Michael Parker
Flowery Branch

This mom is missing freedom of open road
I miss my freedom. I don't mind that 30 is breathing down my neck; I've heard (and come to see for myself) that It'll get better as I get older.

I love being the mother of a young child. A toddler in the back seat with a sippy cup and a "baby on board" sign don't bother me at all. In fact, I'm contemplating how soon I'd like to fill another car seat.

But I miss the freedom of the open road. At $4-plus a gallon, I cram all my errand running into one day. Matter of fact, I always did. I'm a homebody. Always have been.

However, there is just something relaxing about going on a nice, leisurely drive once in a while. I'm not talking every day. Or even once a week. Just the occasional break from the stress and chaos of everyday living.

I miss meandering through the mountains, finding new shortcuts, discovering off-the-beaten-path places. The long, going-nowhere-in-particular-days of a Saturday afternoon are fading fast and that saddens me.
Some of my favorite memories are riding with my parents, their voices harmonizing together as they sang song after song on the radio, sharing steaming hot boiled peanuts with my sister, propping up "just so" in my corner of the back seat to enjoy the kind of nap that only a lazy car ride can bring.

And I wonder, "Will my son ever have memories of like that? Will he know the sheer joy of getting up and going without having a set, plotted course?"

With gas $4 a gallon and rising, it doesn't look like he will.

Mandi Phagan

A few ideas to save our money and landfills
The ads for these newfangled toilets, which really work with a few drops of water, show they have one drawback: They are not designed to fit into existing toilets. Why not?

When the new toilet is installed, what happens to the old one? Does it go to the landfill? If so, that is not good. Can it be ground up and used for anything, say for road paving mixtures?

Why not design an insert that fits into existing toilets. If we can send a rover to Mars, surely there is an engineer who can design a pressurized toilet for insertion into existing toilets.

Next observation: Blood monitors for those who have diabetes are offered free on TV and in the newspapers. Why? They are very inexpensive. What is expensive are the test strips at about $1 each at the retail level. The test strips are where the makers of the blood monitors make their money. I am not against these companies making a profit, but would it not be possible to design a blood testing strip that could be used at least twice?

Bottled water is a big seller in every grocery store. Why not charge 10 cents a bottle which can be redeemed at any store that sells bottle water? This would slow the landfill carnage. Just a thought.

George C. Kaulbach

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