Tag Archive for gas

I'm Riding the Lightning Now!

I spun the motorcycle up to 40 miles an hour today. Yeah, I’m flying now! I best be careful before I break the sound barrier and piss off the neighbors.

Okay, in all seriousness, I’m finally putting in some real seat time after several weeks of storms, rain, trips, and projects, and my comfort level is growing fast. In fact, today I felt more eager than nervous when I fired her up, and that 40mph jaunt, though brief, was not as terrifying as I anticipated.

That’s right, I said terrifying. It’s tough to shake the idea that I’m straddling an engine and someone stole a couple of my wheels. Granted a Virago‘s engine is about as small as they come, but sitting on top of even 21 horses is a very different feeling from strapping into a cozy chair with a sturdy firewall and floor separating me from the engine and all the spinny bits. It’s also a lot of fun, but like my father-in-law told me, you’ve got to respect it or it’ll turn on you.

Because tempting fate by pushing new heights of speed wasn’t enough, I took her out into some heavier traffic today, too. This was another exercise in channeling fear as I made sure I had plenty of time to get moving. My bike will still accelerate better than a lot of cars, but I also have to keep in mind my shifting ability (or lack thereof). Missing a the gear with a semi bearing down on me wouldn’t be any fun now, would it?

Then came the hat trick: I also marked the farthest distance ridden yet. Okay, so it was only a mile from home, but I’ve zipped around quite a bit within that range. It’s all about seat time for the moment, and my comfort level grows with every turn. Just like when I’m learning a new kata in karate class, I’m building up my proprioception, or muscle memory. Pretty soon shifts and turns will be automatic, just as they are in a car.

That mile distance took me to the local gas station. The tank was looking a bit empty, so I decided it was about time I topped her off. I didn’t look at the pump meter until she was full. The total?

$3.95!

I rounded her to four bucks even, just shy of a gallon of gas. If the previous owner had reset the tachometer with the last fill-up, I’ll easily see 50 miles per gallon out of this bike, probably more.

I can definitely get comfortable with numbers like that.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Don't Hold Your Breath

There are two stories today that may impact the future of gas prices. First, a huge oil field has been discovered in North America, and second, scientists have genetically engineered corn to break down its own cell walls. Well and good, but I’m not going to hold my breath.

The oil discovery is important because it could, theoretically, reduce our dependence on foreign oil sources and increase our supply, thus driving down costs. However, the eco nuts and the NIMBYs will slow things down (if not bring it to a screeching halt). They’ll complain about everything from the disruption of some ant colonies to the ugly derricks pumping oil all day, and they’ll hold things up in the courts as long as they can.

I’m not a big fan of the idea of tearing up the land for a fuel we’re trying to move away from anyway, but the need for oil is immediate. The nation’s fleets of cars and trucks aren’t going away any time soon, even if Honda were to miraculously put a cheap, reliable, zero-emissions, solar-powered car on the market tomorrow. The nuts and bolts of our economy are tied to sending money overseas to people who could cut off our supply with the turn of a valve. Oil prices are driving up transportation costs, transportation costs are driving up the costs of goods, and we’re not seeing corresponding increases in our payrolls. I’m no economist so I’m not going to say it’s the number one factor for the recession we’re in, but you can’t tell me the economy wouldn’t recover some if people were able to go back to paying even $2.00/gallon for gas.

So it’s ethanol to the rescue, right? The biggest problem facing ethanol right now is the energy expense in breaking down the cellulose to get the energy out of corn and other biofuel sources. Researchers have been trying a number of methods, most involving bacteria and enzymes from various sources, both natural and engineered. In the story I linked above, lab rats managed to cram a cow gene into corn to make it develop an enzyme that breaks the corn itself down. Rather than introducing enzymes in the production cycle, the corn suicides and eliminates that step altogether.

This is great news for the future, presuming it doesn’t continue to impact corn pricing as a food staple. When feed becomes more expensive, meat will become more expensive and we’ll be trading rising oil costs for rising food costs. In theory, anyway. It will also be some time before this goes into widespread production, and it doesn’t solve the problem of the existing fleets of vehicles. There aren’t enough ethanol vehicles on the market to impact the oil supply and do anything about gas prices.

End result: we’ll be bending over at the pumps for the foreseeable future.

How’s that for a cheery thought of the day?

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

They Just Don't Get It

I’m really, really glad I only have one car to pump gas into.

Bush is headed out to Saudi Arabia to beg King Abdullah to reduce oil prices because the US economy is suffering. What makes him think Abdullah — or any of the sheiks or princes, for that matter — is going to give a flying dog turd what’s happening in the US? These guys live in ultimate luxury, surrounded by yachts and Rolls Royces, while right across the street their own people live in abject squalor. If they’re more interested in pouring their own money into making the Burj Dubai higher and higher than they are in improving their own country, they sure as hell aren’t going to sweat US unemployment rates or the mortgage crisis.

Meanwhile, a Congressional commission wants to increase gasoline taxes to pay for our aging highway infrastructure, including crumbling bridges. So while Bush is off pissing up a rope, Congress has a panel asking them to make things even worse.

Increasing the tax by 40 cents across five years doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but think about that for a minute: gas down the street from me was $3.07 per gallon last I checked. That means in five years it will be a minimum of $3.47, or a 13% increase. That, of course, is without inflation, speculation, conditions in the Middle East, etc., etc., etc., not pushing the per-barrel pricing up from where it is now (and it seems like every month it’s breaking record highs.

The article also discusses putting money into the rail infrastructure. That too makes a certain amount of sense, but it’s really only practical for people living in the city and the suburbs. While I was unemployed in 2005, I was exploring several job opportunities in downtown Chicago because I could jump on Metra for a reasonable rate; even if it did cost me a little more than gas, it saved time, frustration and wear & tear on the car. I could even have called it a bonus by bringing along a laptop to get some writing done.

But out here in the boonies, we’re not so lucky. Let’s say I want to visit Cullen Bunn in St Louis this weekend. If I drive, it would cost me about $52 in gas. If I take the Amtrak, it would only cost me $36 round trip. However, I would need a ride to the train station about 30 miles away. If my wife drops me off and picks me up with our van, that’s 120 miles for two round trips, which works out to a little under $20 in gas. We break even financially, and even the convenience of writing on the train ride is negated by having to arrange rides on both sides of the trip. (Incidentally, if I bring the whole family, the train ticket price jumps to $90 plus probably parking costs, making the van the clear winner in that scenario.)

Unless the ticket prices get more attractive than gas prices, people (out here) aren’t going to see an advantage in train travel. Even putting ticket pricing aside, we don’t have rail access like the city does. I was once chided by a city dweller for not using my bike or public transportation for day trips. He just couldn’t wrap his head around the fact that I lived in the middle of a cornfield and we have no train stations, and a five-minute bike ride isn’t going to get me past the cornfield, much less into the city. Building the infrastructure out to us would cost a fortune, which would in turn raise ticket prices, making the train even less an incentive than before.

The car companies tease us with electric cars, but they tell us they don’t make them because we don’t buy them. How can we buy what’s not there? Not to mention we just shift our spending from gas to the electric bill. That’s the whole reason I got my motorcycle license last summer: between better mileage and the availability of affordable bikes, they’re cheaper all around to operate (presuming I don’t get my ass run over riding it).

I guess the short answer is solving this problem is going to take some innovative thinking. (Or maybe Jimmy Carter has what we need.)

Unfortunately that’s something our government representatives have in very short supply.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.