The pump price of gasoline these days has had me thinking back to when I was a kid – during the so-called gas crunch of the seventies. Of course, there was no actual gas shortage then, as evidenced by the fact that over thirty years later, we’re using more of the stuff than ever. Back then, I remember thinking that if we really were running low on the supply of crude oil, why were they still manufacturing and selling cars that ran on gas?
Even though there was no legitimate shortage, by limiting distribution, a shortage was created – stations only received a certain allotment of gas and when it was gone, customers were out of luck. This led to the infamous long gas lines in the seventies. If you are too young to remember, this went on for months. It was during this time that my family took a trip from Oregon to Missouri, as we did nearly every year. The difference was that usually, there was no gas shortage problem. Most of our journey that year was uneventful, except for one minor incident.
At the time, gas stations throughout the western United States were not nearly as plentiful as they are now. Gas stops had to be planned well in advance because it might be hundreds of miles to the next station. Not filling up where you should could lead to being stranded in the middle of nowhere.
On the way to Missouri, we’d driven well into the evening and the tank was running low. Knowing that once we’d left the area we were in, there’d be no more gas for quite a distance, my dad was earnestly looking for a place to fill up. But, all the stations were closed. So, with no other choice, he parked at a station and we waited, our family of four all in the car, hoping that the next morning we could be on our way.
I’m sure it was a little nerve racking and upsetting to my parents. Losing time and the uncertainty of not knowing if we’d be able to get gas the next day was no doubt a bit disconcerting. But I didn’t mind at all. It was kind of fun! A surprise makeshift camping trip! (I was a kid remember and didn’t think much beyond the present.) Besides, they were still selling cars so, what was there to worry about?
We did get gas the next morning and continued on our way with no other problems. And a few days later, we made the return trip home just fine. But the whole thing did provide me with a nice story to think back on when gas prices start skyrocketing and I hear someone on the radio blame it on the short supply of crude oil.
I know now, the continual talk of gas shortage is done for a strategic purpose. And on purpose, by those who are in charge of determining our gas price – whoever they might be. It’s the same old thing time after time. They use anything they can to raise prices at the pump, particularly during the summer months and the holidays. It’s always due to a supposed shortage – this refinery is having problems, that one is closed for repairs, or some tanker collided with something in the ocean and has sprung a leak – any excuse will do. It’s a little different scenario that the seventies, but still the same premise. I still don’t believe there is any gas shortage. And for good reason. On my way to work today, I drove past three huge car lots. I noticed that all of them were still selling cars.