"Record high gas prices," has been the refrain of many in the media this past year while talking about the price at the pump. Jay Leno even said, "They don't even put the price on the sign anymore -- it just says, 'If you have to ask, you can't afford it.'"
Drivers I talked to at a New York gas station agreed. "Too high, it's scary," said one man. "It's going up and up and up and it's the most expensive it's ever been," said another woman.
But the reality is that the "record high gas prices" are a myth. The U.S. Department of Energy records show that when you adjust for inflation the price of gas is now lower than it's been for most of the twentieth century. Prices are lower now than they were 25 years ago. Yes, they price is up from the 1998 all time low of $1.19, but they are a dollar lower than they were in the early 1980s.
When I told this to people at the gas station they didn't believe me. And why should they? The media keep telling us about the record high prices -- they're just not adjusting for inflation!
I asked people to compare the price of gas to bottled water or ice cream you can buy inside the gas station. Most people were sure the gas was more expensive. But they're wrong.
If you took the average price of a bottle of water, a gallon would cost nearly $7. A gallon of Haagen Dazs ice cream would set you back nearly $30 -- 15 times the price of gas.
And think about how much harder it is to produce gasoline.
First, oil has to be sucked out of the ground ... sometimes from deep beneath an ocean or underneath ice or from the Middle East where workers risk their lives. And just to get to the oil often means the drill may have to bend and dig sideways through as many five miles of earth. What oil companies find then has to be delivered through long pipelines or shipped in monstrously expensive ships, then converted into three different formulas of gasoline, trucked in trucks that cost more than $100,000 and then your local gas station has to spend a fortune on safety devices to make sure you don't blow yourself up.
Gas is actually a bargain, not that you'll hear that from most of the media.
Whether Democrats or Republicans control Congress, one thing never changes. Politicians love to spend your money.
Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, is a good example. Years ago Congress gave money to the little tourist town of Ketchikan, with only 14,000 residents, for an airport on a nearby island. Ketchikan International has six to eight flights a day, and people get there by taking a short ferry ride -- which they love. The scenic ride takes 500 air travelers a day to or from the airport in just seven minutes
Alaska resident Mike Sallee likes the ferry ride. He said, "I think our existing ferry system is just dandy and it doesn't cost $200 million."
The $200 million refers to the fact that Young recently persuaded legislators that Ketchikan needs a bridge to the airport. And Young doesn't want just any bridge. He wants a $200 million bridge -- one higher than the Brooklyn Bridge and almost as long as the Golden Gate. Some people here say, why not. They say the ferry schedule's inconvenient, so why not spend everyone else's tax dollars on us?
"Whether it's a bridge here or a new interstate connection in Dallas, it's gonna be spent somewhere," said one resident.