Making Choices

Today I had a great comment on my $4 Gasoline post by Joy at Joy’s Victory Garden and Our Friendly Earth, that got me to pondering an issue that I have addressed here before. With the inevitable $4 gasoline, and the possibility of the rising cost not taking a downward turn anytime soon, what are average Americans going to do? Choices will be made…choices born out of fear and exasperation.

My concern with $5 gasoline is that people will have to choose between buying a gallon of milk or loaf of bread and buying a gallon of gasoline. Without fuel, people will not be able to afford to drive to work. If a person doesn’t work, then what? There are assistance programs, but I am certain it is not enough.

DH drives 36 miles round trip for work everyday. He drives an older vehicle with terrible fuel economy…but that is our only choice at the moment. Just cipherin’ in my head, I come up with a monthly expenditure of around $200 for him to drive back and forth to work. It is not proper form to tell you what percentage of his net income that actually respresents, but let’s just say….I would much rather that be going into a college savings fund instead pouring out into the environment. There is no choice for us for now, we will keep paying the amount, whatever it is, so that DH can earn his paycheck.

What about other’s who do not have other resources to offset this enormous budget buster? For a minimum wage employee, almost one hour work will pay for a gallon of gasoline. I am thinking that most minimum wage workers drive older less fuel efficient vehicles. Using the same scenario as DH’s, except on minimum wage, the percentage of net income spent on fuel is approximately 25%, a percentage that was once reserved for the most important issue of your budget…housing. Rising fuel costs added to a fixed rent figure could skyrocket to a 60-70% of a minimum wage earners net salary. So that puts us at 85-90% of salary….hmmmm….what about child care (I am thankful I do not have to worry about this expense), medical, and ummmm…let’s say FOOD? There’s another hit below the belt. Milk is as much as gasoline and bread/eggs not to far from it.

I am not an economist….and there is much I do not understand about inflation, recession, supply and demand, but one thing that I recognize with our current situation and where it is headed is that we are in deep stuff here. I think I could ramble on and on here with what ifs. It seems…and I realize that I will most likely be corrected in the comments section….that we have a full viscious cycle building larger and larger….like a thunderhead in the distance. If people are put into a position of making choices of whether to purchase gas to drive to work, or to feed a hungry family, what will that choice be and what are the ramifications of the choice? No work? No paycheck! No paycheck? No food or housing! Then what? Subsidies are available, but will they continue if a the need becomes greater? Certain jobs are filled with minimum wage workers (right or wrong) that will otherwise not be filled by anyone else. What will happen if the need for employees is not met? What if, what if?

I don’t know the answer. Do you? One thing I do know, it that I am watching the lightning strikes…..1….2….3…..and counting the moments…1…..2…..before I hear the thunder…..1……and I believe it to be a prudent time to take cover! There is a different kind of storm a-comin’!

Vacationing in Your Own Backyard

For a very long time now, I have been trying to get our backyard hard-scaped with a privacy fence, a concrete patio, and a walkway to the alley. It seems as though so many other things get in the way. Last week I think I wrote about having a date set to finally get my patio poured. Well, guess what? It’s not done. With the threats of a week worth of severe storms and rain, we thought it best to put it off…yet again.

I am not certain, but I think we may have a break from anything severe for today. Today’s weather is my favorite for camping…cool, cloudy and overcast. The dampness makes me crave a campfire. Last night after the last storm passed through, DH and I simultaneously looked up at the sky and said, “Man, this would be a great night for camping.” Knowing that wasn’t the prudent thing to do, we thought about just laying out on the trampoline to watch the stars and the satellites pass over. I mentioned that we could go “camping” in our backyard like we used to when the kids were younger.

My dream for my backyard is for a place in which we would want to spend time…..a place for reflection…for entertaining or a breath of fresh air.  Money is always tight, but we generally get away to somewhere every year…even if it just over to Meade State Park for a weekend of camping and fishing. This year, I am afraid that the only “vacation” away from home will be associated with DD’s travels and it will be frugal, no frills travel to say the least. The gasoline budget will be eating up any of the entertainment dollars we might have had. To me, this makes my dream for my backyard retreat even more important.

On Path to Freedom’s Journal today, there is a post about Staycations and Staying Closer to Home. Staycations are vacations spent at home enjoy what it has to offer. That is what we are planning for this year’s “getaway”. We will getaway to our backyard. Tonight I will set the date with DH. All hard-scape will be finished, so as to not make it a working vacation. I am looking for a relaxing, maybe romantic few days of togetherness. I found the Top 10 Staycation Strategies at about.com and plan to put some in place.

What would your strategies be for planning a Backyard Staycation?

Last Chance for Civilization

I have just been introduced to a new blog…well, new to me anyways….at Wisdom of the Trowel. There, I found an entry about an article for which I had been searching for a few days now. An opinion piece entitled, Civilization’s Last Chance, in the New York Times discusses humanity’s never-ending belief that there will always be second chances and “do-overs” when it comes to our ecological environment. Filled with metaphors, this article offers a grim look at a future headed for disaster if emissions are not limited quickly.

 I would like to send a special thank you to Lewru for posting the article along with the link. I had seen several blogs discuss the article without giving credit to Bill McKibben or the New York Times.

FUEL PRICES!

My friend, Anita, at Prairie Dreams blogged about Gas Prices today.  The more I thought about $130 a barrel fuel…the angrier I became. I began to leave a comment, which began to turn into a pretty long comment, so I thought in all fairness to Anita I should move my overloaded mouth to my own blog.

This is an official RANT happening before your very eyes folks!  And as with most of my rants, my thoughts usually flop out on the screen in huge messy chunks…so I apologize up front for any randomness or incoherent moments.

Fuel is expected to skyrocket in June. WHAT? What the #&@! is it doing now?  I cannot imbed this video, but you can go to Chicago NBC NEWS to watch a video clip about $4.39 fuel or this clip about People Expressing Anger.  They use some of the same footage in both. $4.39 is not even the highest per gallon found in Chicago.

The Capital Group reports that Goldman Sachs predicts $200 barrel oil in 2008.

One of the videos states we should brace ourselves for a rise in prices during peak summer driving times.

How can we, the average people, make a difference in what is happening all across our nation? Some of us, out of necessity, are making individual differences in how we are surviving this crisis. On Prairie Dreams Blog, some of the comments note that people are being more conscientious about combining trips and try to cut down on unneccesary travel.

These fuel prices are not only affecting the pumps, but we see it in our grocery bills as well. I was in stunned in disbelief when 18 ct. eggs jumped over an dollar in the matter of a month. Milk at over $4 a gallon even at the large grocery chains. What can we do? Everyday people are making life decisions…do I buy milk and bread for the table or do I put fuel in the tank? There should be some law stating people should not be put in the position to make these kinds of decisions. Okay,okay, I know that there are many people who have had to make these types of decisions since the beginning of time, but come on! This is ridiculous!

I wonder what would happen if a large portion of U.S. citizens just decided NOT to go to work for one day. Now, I realize that most Americans cannot afford to miss a day of work, but there are those that are able. With the prices rising faster and higher, I feel it won’t be long before people cannot afford to drive to work and will be making that choice…do I drive to work today or do I put food on the table?

What if there was a movement toward a 4 day work week until this crisis is over? For employers who could shut down for one day a week, they would have the added benefit of cutting heating and cooling costs. We have a school district south of us who went to a 4 day school week and I have heard positive things about it. There were many obstacles to overcome in the initial transformation, but for the most part I believe it was a positive move.

I have seen email forwards asking for every person to not purchase fuel on a particular day, but that has not seemed to make a difference. I think NOT going to work for a day…..WOULD!  Maybe I am delusional…I am not economist, nor do I play one on television, but it seems there would be some relief, if not some kind of satisfaction, in a cohesive campaign. What do you think?