In 1981, the car I was driving was a ratty looking 1972 Opel station wagon, the first wheels I could truly call my own. That summer, the speedometer cable broke, rendering the odometer useless. As I recall, the fuel gauge somewhat worked, but wasn't reliable.
This resulted in two things: I got real good at listening to the engine to figure out both vehicle speed and miles per gallon, and I began keeping a written log of fuel purchases. It worked: Despite my youthful heavy foot, I neither got a ticket nor ran out of gas. Six cars and 27 years later, though, I still log every purchase. I also still have every log. Someday I may key all this in.
What else came of that, though, was having a running database of fuel prices. Long before Trilby Lundberg came along, I got good at tracking, and predicting, the price of gasoline. Now that the Internet and everyone's wonderfully informative blogs are here (thank especially Oily Cassandra and ChristianTM), I think I can safely predict where the price of fuel is going: Up! (yawn, big surprise there!) Really, though, I'm going to go out on a limb and make honest predictions. As I write, mid-grade unleaded is about $3.25/gallon here in suburban Pittsburgh. I do not shop on price, and do not drive all over to get a better price. Four out of five purchases are made at the filling station at the corner on nearby McKnight, and have been since I moved here 17 years ago. I always buy 89-octane mid-grade, since every car I've ever had since the Opel pings on 87 octane.
Without further ado -- and these are the Pittsburgh 89-octane prices:
$3.50 - by May 1, 2008, start of the summer driving season.
$3.75 - by September 8, 2008, end of the summer driving season
Less than $3.50 again - by November 4, 2008, Election Day.
$4.00 - by March 11, 2009, one year from today.
$5.00 - by Labor Day weekend 2009.
$6.00 - by Labor Day weekend 2010.
I'm not really willing to stick my neck out beyond that. Something else is going to happen, not sure what. A conventional war. A nuclear war. A society changing terrorist attack. Another oil embargo. Major influence from the new Iranian International Petroleum Exchange. Destabilization of the dollar. Some sort of refining crisis, like post-Katrina, when we had plenty of oil, but limited refining capacity.
I will say that we will see $10/gallon before the 2012 presidential election, and $20/gallon before the decade of the 2010s is done. The problem with saying that is that inflation speeds these along, in a positive feedback loop.
It is hard to convince people that last autumn's even $3/gallon is really the same as the $2/gallon they were paying a couple of years ago, factoring in inflation, or that the roughly 80 cents a gallon they were paying in 1997 was actually half the roughly 60-cent price they were paying in 1977. I can tell you, though, that everyone surely recognized in 1977 (when I first started driving) was double what they were paying barely five or six years before.
Anyway, enough. The predictions are what matter. I will post updates to this, probably with bulletins, as either the time or the price thresholds are reached.
Totally off-topic: What I'm listening to: The music of the 1920s and 1930s on Radio Dismuke. MySpace doesn't hook in Internet Radio very cleanly.