Find More, Use Less

As I return to work and my regular routine, I heard an interesting series of reports regarding the plan of many congressional republicans to find more oil and use less. I think the absurdity of and upside down status from standard economical theories and laws is almost comical, so quickly: If there is more oil available, the supply is hence up; as supply is increased the price will go down. If the price goes down, as we have seen for the 30 years from 1975 to 2005 in this country, what happens to the basic idea of conservation and working toward a model with a much greater independence from oil as an energy source in the long-term?

What I really want to focus on though is the find more part of the equation. First, let me say, I don’t have too much problem with opening the coast lines on the Pacific and Atlantic coast up to some limited exploration and drilling. I do feel like the areas in Alaska are perhaps a little bit more in greater need of federal protection as lands that were set aside on that, but even that I am a bit up in the air about. However, the argument that opening these coastal areas up to exploration and drilling is in any way going to help the current energy price crisis is absolutely absurd.

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Explain Gas Pricing

So I got two things I want to talk about under this heading. They are kind of time sensitive, Arm and Leg Gasso I thought I would go ahead and put this up, despite having a couple of drafts still going that need to be finished.

First, this past weekend I was down in Tennessee for a bit. A week or two ago, the state of Kentucky was investigating why Louisville gas was on average .20 a gallon higher than the rest of the state. The answer was an easy one. They have a stricter formula due to air quality issues. Though since that it was pointed out that the Northern Kentucky area, just south of Cincinnati has the same restrictions and gas was cheaper there. Anyway, anyone living in Central Kentucky now knows that we caught up with Louisville. Average around here, at least when I filled up last week was between 4.09 and 4.19 a gallon, right at the mark Louisville gas was hitting when the complaint was going on.

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JP Morgan – Thumbs Down

A quick short post of frustration for anyone that may care to read. JP Morgan Retirement Planning Services just plan do NOT get the idea of customer service. This all started about six weeks back when I noticed that several of my accounts had dated information regarding address information and decided to get that updated. All of them for the most part went without any major problem, most even allowing a quick change to be done (and then followed up with validation) on the internet, given that I had previously enrolled and went through the process to validate the internet access.

Not so with JP Morgan though. I could not change the address on the phone, via the internet, or even via mail with the proper form. However, after several calls through to the customer service, they eventually (after over two weeks of figuring out and going through process) finally got this special magical form which could not even be downloaded sent to my, you guessed it, NEW address that was given to the customer support person on the phone.

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Airline Math

Airport Sign Someone please help me. I am normally pretty sensible and usually approach things logically and will even dare to say that most times I can figure out the why behind something. This one has me stumped completely though and I am just wondering if there is some uber-geek out there (yeah, there are few others of you out there aside from myself) that can explain this to me.

Situation: I am flying from city A to city B. However, there is no direct flight from city A to city B, so I have to change planes close to city B, in city C. I can book that flight from A to B through C round trip for a nice fee of just over $200 including all taxes, fees, etc.

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Hero: American Dreamer

An inspiring story if there ever was one is the story of Adam Shepard, $25 dollars and pursuit of the American Dream. So Adam, a young college educated gentlemen did an experiment. He left home with $25, a duffel bag of clothing, and basically set out to prove that one can still achieve the American Dream. He completely left his support structure, including family and friends and had nothing. He ended up living in a homeless shelter, finding a job with a moving company, and inside of 10 months – without using his networking or college education skills (after all, how much of a college education do you need to balance a small pay check and move furniture) he had bought himself a truck and saved $5000. You can read more details in this article.

I find such a deal of inspiration in this story that is hard to fathom it. Especially when I consider the job skill set that I have, the great job (and even 2nd job that I have had up until recently) and that I still on occasion find myself short heading into the stretch before pay-day. Now granted, I do have some expenses that are hard to get away from given that I own horses. However, I have a lot of expenses beyond those that I still spend that are small in their own right, but add them up over time and they start to be a big one. It is the little things though that one would have to be a lot more diligent about if one were forced (or chose to) live on a much more strict budget.

For instance, I think back to this past weekend and little expenses incurred:

  • $16.00 bad Indian Jones movie for 2
  • $8.00 coffee and snacks while driving here and there throughout the weekend
  • $7.00 fast food dinner Friday evening
  • $4.00 a guess here for gas, but 3 separate trips to grocery that was within an easy walking distance
  • $20.00 lunch at a diner (I didn’t spend it, but would have if they hadn’t pick up the tab)
  • $5.00 breakfast on Tuesday morning as I headed back

Ad all that up and it is $60.00 – which would go a long way toward any number of things for me as a single person. That is nearly what I spend on groceries for lunches for an entire month (granted I eat out 1 to 2 times a week – but that again would just add to the point I am making).

So, feeling inspired I am thinking of somethings I can do to check a bit of this and noting some things I am already doing. Maybe a few of these are helpful for you and maybe some are not. There are some added bonuses too to the green side of thinking as well, which I will try to note also.

  1. Already keeping my movie viewing down to once a month or less of late. As it is now summer, maybe see some double features at the drive-in, where you get two movies for $5.00 instead of the $8-10.00 at theaters. Also, if I do see at the theater, it must be a matinée. Additionally, note the drive-in allows you to bring in your own food and such instead of buying $8.00 popcorn and $5.00 sodas. Good news here is that I have seen very little that I am interesting in seeing coming out soon, and Indiana Jones was, in my opinion, so bad as to turn me against movies for a while.
  2. Well, I have never been a fan of Starbuck’s as a general rule, though I did have a phase for a short while. I have liked other coffee shops and I am guilty of enjoying a $5-$6.00 super espresso latte full of extra unjustifiable calories and fat. Worse usually to go, which is a paper or styrofoam cup. No more of that though, not in a while of late. Instead, go to the coffee-house and drink in the setting from a mug, regular or flavored coffee (which I personally enjoy just as much) which is usually all you can drink – even better) for a $1 or $2. Beyond that, when traveling – most of the time I try to make a pot of coffee before hand fill my thermos and use my own travel mug. No additional paper and no paying $1.29 – $2.00 for a large cup of Joe that maybe cost $.25 to make and is often time burnt or at least been around awhile.
  3. As much as Bitzer is going to be dismayed about no longer getting double cheeseburgers, I have to cut out the fast food as much as possible. There really is no justification for it other than just quick and convenient and that is not much. After all, $1.50 for a single flow on a the soda is just too much to bear for me the more I think about it. And I certainly do not need the extra fat and calories to be found in such things. I enjoy some healthy snack foods that I can for a much more reasonable price and have them around for a longer time most of the time – just requires a bit of thought and planning.
  4. The grocery store trips were just a bit of poor planning about things and not really knowing for sure what was going to be happening over the weekend. However, all the things purchased on the various trips could have been done in one trip. Short of one trip that included purchase of a wheel barrow all the trips could have been walking trips too – especially given the laid back nature of the weekend. I certainly could have used the exercise too. I did make one walking trip to the farmers market, Bitzer enjoyed that and got petted by a few 100 people along the way to boot. Also, gas is going to go higher I am sure. I am looking for a bike for around home on the weekends. One last thought though – nearly $4.00 a gallon for gas (that is a bit over 30 miles for me in the car), $1.50 for 64 ounces of coke (syrup, water, carbonization, lots of calories if not diet and if diet well questionable chemicals), $1.29 for a 20 ounce cup of coffee, and $5.00 for a mocha latte grande (full of extra undesirable things) – which one are we paying too much for?

Thanks for the inspiration Adam Shepard!

Recession Rant

So I am looking around at all the news of late about the impending recession or that we may actually already be in one. I am seeing all the recent news about tax breaks to help restart the economy and what more can be done to get things going. I even noticed sometime in the last 24 hours that the basic stuff we need in the grocery store has really jumped prices in the last year or so (eggs jumped nearly $1.00, from around $2.00 to $3.00), though we already knew there had been a big jump in some stuff such as gasoline in the recent years, it too is on the upsurge again. It is really starting to sound like a doom and gloom kind of situation.

I have to admit though that I am not terribly surprised. We have moved much more toward a service (and some will say information) based economy. We, here in the grand old United States of America, outside of a few noted exceptions, just don’t make things anymore. And what things that are made or grown here, typically has such a disconnect from the originator to the end consumer that we hardly even recognize the connection – that is many other blogs I need to write someday.

Anyway, what I see, as admitted amateur economists, services are usually those things that are easiest to cut out of things when a budget gets tight. Well, we should all probably be paying more attention to out budgets then we have in the past, but with the pressures on easy money beyond our means, Americans are starting to feel that push. You cut out one service that you don’t need and so does your neighbor and so on. Now there is some body in a service industry or two that is now really feeling tight on the financial side of things, maybe to the point of laying off someone or as a really cutting back on expenses. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Growing wheatThe interesting thing though – if the situation continues to spiral those folks that are making and growing things – those things that we all have a true NEED for like food and clothing (oh wait – that is all overseas now) will continue to do well. In fact, if it all doesn’t get absorbed by the fuel surcharges and middlemen, farmers may actually end up seeing a little bit of an increase in revenue for their product. A new concept for farmers – even though food goes up at the grocery very little of that goes back to farmers.

Bottom line – I think that moving toward a service economy has it merits, but I don’t think we can all move into services or we end up being owned by someone else for our basic needs. I wonder if there is a correlation to be looked at here from great empires that have crumbled in the past? Did Rome collapse because it become fat and lazy and outsourced to much to the fringes of the empire? What about Greece – too few olive growers and to many philosophers? Bonaparte’s France – was the problem a lack of people in France still doing the basics to support the basic infrastructure and have enough left over to support a massive army in the field all the time?