For the past sixty-five million years, give or take an eon or so, one thing you could always count on towards the end of spring was a rise in gasoline prices, which would inevitably start to taper off during late summer as vacation driving gradually diminished. Through 1995, I had yet to meet one person over the age of sixteen years and one day who wasn't fully aware of this particular cycle; when your culture, indeed your very life, revolves around the automobile, the price of fuel is always Topic A, or at least B.

Somehow, between 1995 and 1996, we managed to forget all this. Pump prices, as always, started upwards after Easter, but this time the knees of the politicians went into full jerk mode. The President, apparently remembering that he's registered as a Democrat, made a whole lot of noise about the unseemliness of it all, and sold off about $12 million worth of oil from the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve in an effort to push prices back down, a maneuver that was as transparent as it was pathetic. Curiously, the soon-to-be-anointed Republican candidate turned down the opportunity to sneer at this example of Clintonia gone troppo, instead opting to join the chorus of Victims of Big Oil®.

So far, no one has taken this nonargument to its next logical step: that the oil industry engineered the miserable winter just past, pushed all its refinery stocks into high-profit heating oil, and waited patiently for the vernal equinox and the annual Spring Surprise. Then again, this being an election year, it's surely just a matter of time. Can you say "windfall profits tax"?

The Vent

1 May 1996

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 Copyright © 1996 by Charles G. Hill