Friday, July 18, 2008

Good Old Days

I love this old picture from 1938. It shows a sign in front of a Gas Station in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The sign shows Gas at 20 1/2 cents a gallon. The sign gives a breakdown on the cost, showing the various cost components leading to the price. At this price, they also came out and filled your car up, checked your oil and tire pressure, and washed your windshield.

I don't know if it is just me, but high gas prices are really starting to sting. We have started making lots of life style adjustments due to the high gas prices. I had a really nice Toyota Sequoia, but I just sold it because it got about 15 mpg. I wanted to buy a Natural Gas Honda Civic. These run on Natural Gas, and you can fill them up from your home gas connection. In looking in to these, I found that they are only available in California, and there is a ridiculous waiting list, so they basically are not available. Then I looked into hybrids, but my conclusion was that in reality they do not get very much better mileage than a normal small car. So, now I am leaning towards a Honda Civic, which is supposed to get close to 40 mpg. The thing is, it is very hard to find one of these, as they are selling faster than they can get them in. Anyway, I am making lots of adjustments, as I do not see gas prices getting back to the "Good old Days" anytime soon. Is it just me, or are these gas prices starting to cause others to make lifestyle changes also? Any good ideas out there?


  1. It may be hard, but aren't they changes that need to be made? I believe you wrote about being frugal, and lessons learned during the Depression; I think gas is like anything else, and shouldn't be squandered regardless of what the price is.

    (sorry if it wasn't you who said that, I read a lot of blogs)

  2. I've always found it strange that most US manufactured cars have such low MPG and people have seemed quite happy with that until now.

    Every car I've ever owned has got (at worst) around 40 MPG. I'd recommend looking into European or Japanese cars and obviously keep away from anything over 2.0 engine size, you probably don't need it. Also you're correct on Hybrids they are a bit of a con at the moment and only seem to be popular in the US, where as I say your average car has awful MPG.

  3. Every gas station ought to have to show the cuts the various players get... it might open our eyes to where our money's going. By the way, his math is wrong... adding all of the figures together would yield 20 cents, not 20.5 cents.

  4. As an american living overseas for many years, hearing americans complain about
    HIGH gas prices is funny. Here gas is about $7.50/gallon and is even more
    more expensive in other countries. The 1938 inflation-adjusted price of gas in the US is approximately $3/gallon.

    Walk, bike take the bus. Encourage your city to build bike paths, city-sponsored bike rental programs.
    I pay $10/year for bike pass-can pick up/drop off rental bikes at hundreds of points thru the city.
    Americans are 5% of world pop but use 25% of the world's resources. A rich country with smart people making very dumb choices. We should be the world leader in renewable energy and inovative solutions
    but...we are adding to the problem rather than solving it.

  5. The key is lifestyle changes, not a new car. Take the cost of replacing your car prematurely, determine the cost per mile saved and divide into that cost and you will find that you will have to drive umpteen thousand miles before you will realize any saving!

    Consolidate your trips. Don't make unnecessary trips. Walk where possible, etc., and watch the true savings add up.

  6. I have been tossing the idea around of investing in bio-diesel energy. The way I lok at it we have a few alternatives to gasoline right now:
    -Diesel gets better mileage, higher prices
    -Electric isn't practical, too slow, not enough hp and torque
    -Hybrids way too expensive huge waiting list
    -CNG/Propane is most reasonable for today
    -Hydrogen, the technology is there but way too expensive and under-developed

    With bio-diesel you use existing engines and vehicles, you get better mileage than gasoline, its cleaner, best of all you can make it in your backyard.

    The only problems that have kept me from investing into it is now that it is getting more popular ALL the greese out there is being taken and price of the greese itself is rising. There is only 1 station in my area (Phoenix) that sells readily useable biodiesel for about 2.85 last I checked. I don't think I want to rely on 1 station in case something were to happpen.

    Sorry about the long comment I just couldn't stop. I hear stories from my dad about his good old days in the 70's where everyone drove around gas hog v8's and people never complained of gas until the shortage in I think 74? Then as he puts it, cars got less and less powerful paving the way for the imports.

    Love the blog, keep 'em coming!

  7. The only change I've noticed is that I'm getting more and more smug about having a fuel-efficient car. ;)

  8. Lots of interesting comments, thanks!

    On the comments of Walking/Biking/Bus/Mass transit. That is just not an option for where I live. I live in a remote area, 20 miles from town. My wife works in town, and my daughter, who lives at home with us, goes to a University in town. There is no bus route any where near where I live, and a bus or mass transit would never be practical here, because of the remote, sparsely populated area. Biking is not an option due to distance/terrain/temperature.

    We have made changes, though. In addition to selling the Sequoia, my daughter and wife car pool now. This is not convenient, since my daughter's class schedule never lines up well with my wife's work schedule, but they have adpated, and carpool, so that we are not running two cars to town every day. Right now, they drive a small pickup, which gets about 23 mpg. It is a lot better than the 15 mpg that the Sequoia got, but not near the 40 mpg I would like to be getting. Frustrating thing is that there are few good options. I would love to have a Smartcar, but there is a huge waiting list. As I mentioned in the post, the Honda Natural Gas car is just not available either. I think a practical electric car is a long way off due to technology limitations of batteries. I would buy an electric car if there was a practical one, but I dont see that coming about in the near term.

  9. I can remember well my first new car, a 1984 Honda Civic 1500S which got 50 miles per gallon. This was nearly 25 years ago now, yet for some reason the car companies seem to think such a figure is unrealistic today. I wish I'd bought three of them!

  10. What can I add to the great observations above? I druve a toyota Avalon (V6) that will get around 32 mpg if driven very carefully with few stops. In our day to day driving, we can expect 27-28 mpg because we, like pjm live outside a very large city and almost nrver go there. We have found a number of stores that satisfy our needs and we male loops to get to the ones we need to go to.

    The future will be in all electric cars that will run around 120 miles with one charge have fully electric air conditioning and travel at up to 60-65 mph. These will be chargable from the standard home electrical systems and power can come from wind or nuclear power generation. The issue is the batteries and there is a lot of research underway to build batteries that are compact and will hold enough energy to meet the above specifications.

    In the meantime, get rid of your trucks and suburbans and become a hypermiler with me.

  11. I saw noted Texas oil man T. Boone Pickens on CNBC squakbox a few days ago. He had a plan where in 5 years we could get 20% of our electrical power from wind. That 20% today is being generaed from Natural Gas. He would then have us use that Natural Gas for cars, converting cars away from gasoline, and to natural gas. This would drastically reduce dependence on foreign oil, and would provide a stop gap solution for autos while we wait for a practical electric car. I found it interesting that all the "talking heads" poo-pooed his idea, saying he was "talking his book", since he is putting in wind farms. To me, it was the first real serious proposal I had heard from anyone who had thought through the whole complex problem. T. Boone is already extremely rich, and is pretty old. I really dont think he is proposing this out of self interest, I genuinely believe he is concerned about the country. I think we should seriousely listen to him.

  12. I saw the Pickens interview as well. You can read all about it on his site at:

  13. Hi from Canada. You guys south of the border are a lot luckier then us Canadians regarding gasoline prices. A litre of regular gas costs $1.38 today. A couple of days ago it reached $1.56 per litre. One american gallon equals 3.7 litres. We have lots of oil in the western provinces but because of free trade we have to ship 70 percent to the United States even if we don't have sufficent for our own needs. I hope Obama win the presidential election this November to we can get rid of FREE TRADE.

  14. Before you buy, look at the new VW Jetta TDI (Diesel). Diesels are MUCH cleaner burning than in the past and with the new model, you will not believe it is a diesel (very little noise). If you prefer Honda, then you may want to wait for the Accord Diesel in '09.

  15. Why is diesel so much more than gas? Will this change?

  16. i have an old 1980 vespa. i get ~60 mpg.

  17. can always cycle or walk..


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