Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Prices in Crisis

Which comes first, the election in 3 weeks or this gasoline price (seen here in Missouri this past Sunday afternoon)?

Missouri was seen as a swing state at the start of this Presidential election year and thus in need of campaign attention, while Tennessee was seen as solid Republican (it even swung away from native son Al Gore, who had sited his 2000 campaign headquarters in Nashville). Since the state was securely red, there has been no urgent need to push down gas prices to get more votes.

Now that Tennessee is up for grabs, we are beginning to see lower prices like other swing states. We have been slowly moving down from $4 towards $3/gallon over the past three weeks, prices that swing states like Missouri, Indiana and Ohio have been enjoying much longer. Hurricane-smuricane. As I mentioned in this space on September 6th, better prices at the pump are good news for the incumbent party, and if you have some sway with the refineries, you can make that happen, as we have seen in many Bush-related campaign seasons over the past 20 years.

If you have some sway with the oil producers and futures traders, you can also make that happen to crude, which puts the squeeze on countries like Venezuela and Russia, as an added bonus.

Of course, as James Howard Kunstler observes: "We construct our narratives to try and explain circumstances that are unraveling non-linearly before us, and some narratives are more plausible than others, depending on your vantage point. There are infinite narratives."

In my narrative, some gas is better than no gas, but if temporarily low prices bring us back to thinking the bubble economy we enjoyed before is real, and is not imploding now, we are worse off. We need to take this pause in the hyperinflation cycle to equip for the future, which will be a future not just of expensive gas, but of no gas. To the left is another sign I saw this past week in a central part of the Ozarks.

Back at The Farm we are celebrating the hunter's moon and preparing for our harvest moon. The persimmons are being dried or jellied. The hyacinths are coming off the constructed wetlands and going into long compost windrows to make next Spring's potting soil. A new, sawdust pyrolysising masonry stove is going into the Inn's greenhouse, along with all the tropical plants that will overwinter there. Carl is building a sauna from cedar shakes and scrapwood. Jason is laying out the project for our photovoltaic design and installation workshop next month. Ellie and Jessi are boxing up things we won't need when the workshop season is over. My mind is full of ideas for new books, and the extra time for writing that winter brings.

It is a good time to husband resources, buy durables, and secure for inclement weather.

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