The Convenient Price Manipulations of SuperAmerica

May 26, 2007

One of the local news stations ran an expose on local gas prices, which fluctuate wildly compared to most of the rest of the nation. It’s not uncommon now for prices to jump by 15-20 cents in a day and then slowly drop over the next week. While gas price trends are similar to most of the US, the graph of price changes is a lot more jagged & jumpy versus the smoother curves seen elsewhere.

The apparent reason? The Twin Cities area is one of the metro regions lucky enough to be dominated by the Marathon/Speedway/Super America chains. They have enough market presence that they set the gas prices for most of the metro and appear to have a business strategy of jacking prices way up right before high-demand weekends (holidays, fishing opener, etc.) to increase their profit margins on gasoline from around $.01 per gallon to $.15 or $.20. But that’s not price gouging of course…  If you watch the video, you’ll get to see where SA management refused to comment live, but claimed that their gas pricing strategy was ‘business confidential.’

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The 90% Mobility Cut

May 17, 2007

Emme over at Simple Living has embarked on a project of reducing her carbon emmissions by 90% or more. It’s a noble effort that I fully admit I’m’ in no shape to emulate for the time being. Good luck!

Starting tomorrow I’ll be on at least a 90% mobility cut for a month or more. In the meantime, I’ll be thanking the powers that be that we have the miracles of anesthesia & high-powered pain-killers as we start down the back slope of Hubbert’s Peak. I’ve spent the last week tending to as much work around the house that I can do that require anything more energetic than sitting & complaining since I’ll be doing little else for a few weeks. This probably means my blogging will increase a bit since I’ll have plenty of downtime on my hands.

Anyway, my plans for a vegetable garden have been scuppered for this season. I’ll build the beds later this summer and get something growing in them, but my plans for bushels of tomatoes and peppers have come to naught. Such is life, but at least there’s the farmer’s market.
I’ve managed to plant six stands of raspberry canes behind my garage, and three out of four hops rhizomes appear to be growing well. I’m not expecting to get much in the way of yields from any of them this year while they concentrate on building out their roots. If nothing else this will hopefully break up the heavy clay soils in that garden bed; I’m amazed the worms can navigate through there at all.

Gas prices continue their long, slow march upward around here. I had the extreme displeasure of filling up at $3.26/gallon last weekend thanks in part to it being Minnesota’s fishing opener. The local news had several stories about local boaters who are feeling the pinch when it comes to filling up their craft. Most marinas are charging between four and five bucks per gallon, so a large cabin cruiser will be very expensive to fill up.

There are a couple of new houses being worked on in my neighborhood while at the same time there are a number of existing houses for sale that are simply not moving. It’ll be interesting to see how low prices have to come before there’s more action on these places. In at least one case the price has already been lowered by about 10% and still the house languishes.

Let’s Review…

May 11, 2007

As memory serves, prices for regular unleaded gasoline briefly hit a high of around $3.45 per gallon in the Twin Cities area in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, as price gougers suppliers panicked at the thought of limited oil imports.

When I left the house this morning, the l0cal gas station had reduced their price for 87 octane to a measly $3.00 per gallon.  Four hours later, we’re at $3.29.  So, we’re within spitting distance of the all-time record for gas prices, and the only issue affecting us right now (if you read the mainstream media) is the fact that our refineries are running at 100% capacity.

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NYT Article – The No-Frills Kitchen

May 11, 2007

Here’s a neat story by one of the New York Times’ food columnists about how you can equip a rather complete kitchen for between two and three hundred bucks.   Note the lack of power tools until you get to the optional stuff.

Mr. Bittman’s comments on knives are telling, especially since most ‘quality’ chef’s knives seem to cost at least $50 in big box chain stores, and the assumption is that anything cheaper is a piece of crap that won’t hold an edge.

Today’s Strib Editiorial

May 11, 2007

Some truth-telling from the editors at the my local paper this morning:

Upon even a little reflection, it’s Pawlenty who has lost touch with the deeper reality. Everyone knows the world market is pushing gasoline prices inexorably higher. The days of cheap gas are over. Gone. Prices of $4 and $5 are on the horizon. Drivers already have paid the equivalent of a nickel gas tax increase many times over — but have received nothing for it! They have enriched the oil companies and helped oil-producing countries abroad. But higher prices at the pump have not purchased them better roads.

The more important part, and the real message that high gas prices deliver, is this: Minnesota needs to start investing in other ways for people to get around — not just poor people, but all people living in metropolitan settings. That means transit. These systems take decades to build. Federal help is available, but not until Minnesota finds a reliable source of local matching money. The bipartisan transportation bill offers a way: Counties could choose to band together in a joint-powers board to pass a local half-cent sales tax increase to, in essence, extend the success of Hiawatha light rail to the rest of the metro region.


Good stuff.  I can only hope that the rocket scientists at the legislature can come to an agreement and overcome the veto coming from a lame-duck governor who still shackles himself to an ideologically-motivated “no new taxes” pledge.   To me, the promise of a veto on an expensive but necessary appropriation,  shows that Governor Pawlenty obviously has his sights set on higher office, since he continues do what’s good for his base and career instead of what’s good for all Minnesotans.



Multiple Observations

May 9, 2007

It appears that my plans for the summer vegetable garden may be on hold… I found out last week that I need surgery on my left ankle & Achillies’ tendon, which means that after next week I’ll be on crutches for a month and then in a boot for another month after that. These last few weeks have been very busy for me, so I think I’m running out of time to get the raised beds installed before my surgery date.

Unless I get a perfect combination of free time, daylight and weather in the next week, I’ll be raising a few tomatoes & peppers in containers and that’s about it. I’ll then be able to get the beds in later this year, which means maybe a small fall crop of greens this season. It’s frustrating for me, but that’s life.

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Why there is no exit plan from Iraq…

May 2, 2007

“There is to be no withdrawal from Iraq, just as there has been no withdrawal from hundreds of places around the world that are outposts of the American empire. As UC San Diego professor emeritus Chalmers Johnson put it, “One of the reasons we had no exit plan from Iraq is that we didn’t intend to leave.”

The United States maintains 737 military bases in 130 countries across the globe. They exist for the purpose of defending the economic interests of the United States, what is euphemistically called “national security.” In order to secure favorable access to Iraq’s vast reserves of light crude, the United States is spending billions on the construction of at least five large permanent military bases throughout that country.”

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