To the editor:

I would like to take a somewhat contrary view on the current price of crude oil and gasoline. Most of the rest of the world has been paying higher prices than we in the United States for years. I did some work in Canada in 1996 and 1997. The cost of a liter of gas then was $1.25 or approximately $5 per gallon. I haven’t specifically investigated any other countries but it is my understanding that the Europeans have been paying higher prices for years also.

Do I think the current price of gasoline is too high? Depends on whether or not you believe being able to drive 2,000 or 3,000 miles on vacation every summer is a right or a privilege, or whether you consider being able to fly to a foreign country every year for vacation is a right or a privilege. As a nation, we have helped to create this problem by jumping in a vehicle on a whim and burning some gasoline to run to the store for a Coke. I’ll give you a better one than that. I was raised in a town of 20,000 in southwest Kansas. On Friday and Saturday nights, we cruised Main street all night in vehicles that got 10 miles per gallon, if we were lucky. Of course, gasoline in 1967 in Liberal Kan., was 44 cents per gallon. Although we’re in the middle of the “Oil Patch” we still paid almost 20 cents more than most of the state because we were so far from the refineries. Many of those refineries are now gone due to environmental regulations. It was cheaper to close them than to be able to instantly clean them up. Something that the environmental-movement wanted.

Yes, they needed to be cleaned up, but would it have been so wrong to allow some time to get it done? Everyone in this country is quick to excoriate the oil industry when prices are high and they make profits, but no one stops to consider the consequences of the lower prices for crude oil, gasoline, and natural gas. Employment rates in Texas are good right now. Why? The oil field. Another point that no one considers is, those who work in the oil industry pay the same price everyone else does for gasoline and diesel fuel. Most of us who work in the oil field don’t live close to our jobs. I drive 10 mile one way to work. I stay there for the 10 to 12 days, then drive home. Those who work off-shore drive from wherever they live to the Gulf Coast of Texas, Louisiana, or Alabama. Yes, we earn more than most people, but when oil prices were $8 per barrel many of us made less than someone working 40 hours per week at minimum wage.

Truly, profits are up, but the cost to drill a well has increased significantly in the past three years. The rig I have particular knowledge of has seen an increase of $10,000 per day, of $20,000 to $30,000, for diesel fuel. The same rig used cost the oil company $12,500 per day and now goes for $16,000 per day.

Now, off the bully-pulpit and on to the point of the letter. We, as a nation, enjoyed it when our government regulated the price of oil at $3 per barrel and natural gas at $0.25 per 1000 mmcf. We have come to believe that it is our “RIGHT” to have cheap energy. We have taken that right to the extreme by driving cars that wasted fuel, building homes that are next to impossible to heat and cool, flying any where we can afford on vacation, and in general wasting as much of a precious commodity as we can as fast as we can.

Now, we’re just like the child who waste his allowance and wants more only to be told no, whining and crying when it’s time to pay the piper. This wake-up call should have come in the 1970s, but it was easier to slip back into the old ways and just keep driving gas guzzlers. Prior to the end of World War II, people didn’t drive across the county to see their grandkids every year, and Christmas at Grandma’s was a special treat. Families saved up for that special vacation every few years, did not put it on their credit card and go to Disney World one year, then Disneyland the next. I was far from under privileged, but I can only remember two vacations of any length during my child hood. One to the East coast and one to Colorado and Wyoming, and those were when I was very young. The rest were short weekend trips to places close to home.

I believe the reason for this was the age of my parents. I was born in 1950, but raised by my father who was 50 when I was born. It also means they lived and worked through the Depression. Something that had a definite impact on how they felt about spending money. They weren’t misers or overly frugal, just responsible with their money. They learned to tighten their belt a little and be responsible with their money.

We, as a nation, have allowed ourselves to be taken in by the advertising campaigns based on cheap energy and the “false” need for credit. It’s not just the oil companies, it’s also those selling cars and vacations. If we pay as we go, then we do not need excessive credit, other than for large purchases such as houses, land and cars.

I have to agree with Robert Brincefield, there are many causes of the current situation and many solutions. But as the old adage goes, people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. How many of us have truly tried to lower our energy cost (I won’t throw rocks at those who rent, just their landlords—another version of greed) or tried to save money on gasoline by organizing our trip to town and making sure we get everything the fist time. I know I haven’t. Another parable that comes to mind is Jesus throwing the money-changers out of the temple. Don’t get any ideas about religion being the answer either. Today our nation is built on worshiping the money changers on Wall Street. Many have lost their retirement funds or their whole lives by believing those who say “give us your money and we’ll make you wealthy.” Then they take this money and bet on whether or not the price of beef, pork, coffee, oil, natural gas, gasoline or a host of others commodities will go up or down. Some of these futures “bets” are for several years down the road. If they’re right they make money, if they’re wrong they lose money. So daily they evaluate what they think they price of oil or gasoline will do then buy or sell futures based on that model, not whether or not rue supply and demand is being met. This seems to leave the “gurus” a little stumped and working blind.

My parents would, if they were alive, be 108 and 109, respectively. My values structures are a little different than most of the modern world. I don’t expect the federal government to control and legislate every portion of our daily lives. However the lack of many people to take responsibility for their every day actions has led us down that path. One of the greatest lines to ever be spoken by a politician in this country and the world came from John F. Kennedy, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” What you can do for your country is take the responsibility to conserve energy. Quit believing that someone on Wall Street can make you rich without working for it. Stand up and say no to the “lifetime” politicians in Washington who tell you what you want to hear until they are elected, then the wolf comes out of sheep’s clothing. Quit blaming someone else for your situation and find out what you can do to make better. Every time I think I’ve got it bad I can always seem to find someone who has more problems or is in worse shape than I am.

Before we’re so quick to blame the oil companies, we need to look in the mirror and ask what we can to do help alleviate some of the problem.

Myra Nelson