Tuesday, April 19, 2011
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True Cost of Rising Oil Prices
No offense to the good people of New Jersey, but the list of things I miss after leaving the fair state is rather short.
I miss having a farmer's market on every other corner. Fresh corn, tomatoes and peaches are not something to take for granted.
I miss watching one species of flowering plants bloom after another in the spring, each with its own vibrant display of colors. I miss my dear friends.
And I miss your gas prices.
The nation's average price of one gallon of regular gasoline is $3.83. It's $3.99 where I now live. It seems as if nobody wants to be the first station owner to cross that $4.00 threshold. And we know well that once someone does, the rest will soon follow.
Prices have already reached the $4.19 mark in more isolated areas. Yes, that is for the regular grade of fuel. I couldn't bear to look at the price of premium.
Unrest in oil-producing nations is blamed for the current wave of rising costs. What else can we expect with such turmoil in the Middle East?
Hold on just a minute here. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, very little of the oil we import comes from that region.
Our largest oil importer by a wide margin is our neighbor to the north.
January 2011 import figures, released March 30, show we imported 2,149 thousand barrels of crude oil per day from Canada. Mexico came in a distant second at 1,216 thousand barrels per day.
We import 70 percent of our daily crude oil from five countries. Saudi Arabia ranks third at 1,099 thousand barrels per day with Nigeria and Venezuela rounding out the top five. Only one Middle East country made the list. See the full list here.
So the blame shifts to speculators who flood the commodities market. Or maybe it's a government conspiracy to force consumers into hybrid cars they can't afford.
Whatever the cause, the results are clear. Spending more at the pump leaves you with less to splurge on other luxuries like food and clothing.
Especially when you factor in the impact oil prices have on the cost of other consumer goods as well.
The average barrel of oil yields more than gasoline. In fact, gasoline only accounts for 42 percent of that barrel. Diesel is produced with 20 percent, jet fuel nine percent. Heating oil, heavy fuel oil and liquefied gases each snare another 4.5 percent apiece. The remaining 16 percent is used to produce other products.
Like medical products. Heart valves, artificial limbs, stethoscopes, anesthetics, dentures, aspirin and much more are petroleum based. Cosmetic items such as cologne, insect repellents and petroleum jelly contain the same.
Plastics of every shape, size and compound use petroleum as their base. Take one minute here to gaze around the room you're sitting in. Pay heed to every item made of or containing plastic. Don't overlook your computer monitor, keyboard and mouse.
Gasoline is only one petroleum by-product consumed in your car. Your lawnmower, too. Motor oil, lubricants, hoses and antifreeze will also cost you more.
The cost comes not only in the manufacturing of these products but also the transportation. Consumer goods are no good to anyone if left sitting in a warehouse. Factor the cost of delivery into the equation as well.
While you're at it, include those added costs to your food prices and just about every other item you can't provide on your own. And even those that you can. Fertilizers, building materials and other supplies all begin somewhere other than your backyard.
We may be able to reduce the fuel consumed by future vehicles, but we can't eliminate the need for oil in our lives.
At times here in GCFlash we like to share stories of influential world or economic leaders. The traits, challenges and courage of such people inspire us all to rise above what we could otherwise accomplish.
We'll be hearing a lot about this article's subject as his May 1st beatification draws near. Our Catholic readers already know this story. The rest of you are hearing it here first.
This is not a religious story. Those readers who are offended by such will not find cause for alarm within this article.
Karol Wojtyla was born May 18, 1920 in Wadowice, Poland. He was the youngest of three children. His mother died when he was a mere eight years old, his elder sister died in infancy before his birth.
Karol and his brother Edmund, 14 years his senior, grew very close. Edmund became a physician who contracted scarlet fever. His premature death had a deep impact on young Karol.
A star athlete, Wojtyla played goalkeeper for the school football team, soccer as we call it here. The teams, as the schools, were divided between Jews and Catholics. Often the Jewish side would find itself short of players. Wojtyla would volunteer himself as a substitute goalkeeper to keep the games competitive.
Wojtyla and his father moved to Krakow in 1938, where he became a student at Jagiellonian University. He studied languages and volunteered as a librarian. Wojtyla spoke 12 different languages, being fluent in eight.
He took those language skills to the stage. A performer at heart, he worked with various theatrical groups as well as a playwright.
Nazi German forces closed the University after their invasion of Poland in 1939. Education was no longer an option, all able-bodied males were required to work.
Between 1940 and 1944, Wojtyla worked various jobs. He was a messenger for a restaurant, performed manual labor in a limestone quarry and later in a chemical factory.
His father died of a heart attack in 1941. At the age of twenty, Wojtyla became the sole surviving member of his immediate family.
It was August 6, 1944. The Gestapo met with an uprising in Warsaw and were determined not to do the same in Krakow. On a day now known as "Black Sunday", they took more than 8,000 men and boys into their custody.
Wojtyla hid in his uncle's basement, avoiding the German troops who searched the upstairs. He escaped to the Archbishop's Palace where he remained until the Germans left in January 1945.
A 14-year-old refugee girl he found on the railway tracks was one of many Polish Jews who credit Wojtyla with saving their life in protecting them from the Nazis. And he mourns the loss of childhood friends whose fate was outside of his control.
Responding to a call to the religious life, Wojtyla was ordained a Catholic priest in November 1946. He was sent to study theology in Rome, eventually earning two doctorates.
His chosen profession never diminished his passion for the theater. His life under Communism was the subject of poetry and plays he published under pseudonyms Andrzej Jawien and Stanislaw Andrezej Gruda in order to keep his literary works separate from his religious writings.
Nor did Wojtyla lose his passion for outdoor activities. Groups that formed for prayer and works of mercy would reunite for annual skiing and kayaking trips long after they graduated from his classroom.
In fact, he was on a kayaking vacation in 1958 when he received a summons to Warsaw. He had been appointed auxiliary bishop of Krakow.
He continued to rise in stature within the Catholic Church. On October 16, 1978 he was elected the 264th pontiff, taking the name Pope John Paul II.
In the 26+ years he served in this role, John Paul II transcended traditional church boundaries.
He rallied together the youth around the globe, instituting the first World Youth Day where young people could gather on common ground. The tradition continues today.
The era of mass communication allowed us to witness his skill in uniting groups that thought they had no common bond. Whether it was the violence in Northern Ireland, Poland's Solidarity movement, interfaith relations or the fall of communism, John Paul II remained steadfast in his message.
Polish leader Lech Walesa credits John Paul II for giving courage to his people to rise up against the tyranny. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev once said "The collapse of the Iron Curtain would have been impossible without John Paul II."
He was nominated for the Nobel Peace prize. He survived three assassination attempts. The entire world had become his stage with his life the main act.
He had become a world leader, and an inspiration to those who struggle.
Immediately following his death on April 2, 2005, his followers began petitioning his cause for sainthood. For Christians, this is an honor reserved for those who most closely walk the values they hold dear.
For humanity, it's an example of rising above the atrocities of life to grasp for something better. And that's a lesson that we can all use.
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