It isn't unusual for a typical commuter from the Northern San Joaquin Valley to the Silicon Valley to travel 700 miles a week.
If they're getting 30 miles per gallon they are consuming 23 gallons of gas a week.
Now that gas prices have plunged a $1 a gallon in the past year, economists with both the government and private sector are saying this is a bad thing.
So how is saving $23 a week or $1,196 a year a bad thing?
For starters they contend the savings for consumers will be so minuscule that we won't even notice it.
Either economists are able to take a bus to work or else pull down six figures. Based on the median household income in the Valley that's almost two percent of a typical family's pretax income. They may not go out any buy caviar but they may feel flush enough to substitute hamburger for macaroni and cheese for one night a week.
We are told oil prices plunging from $110 a barrel to under $62 is harmful to Saudi Arabia and a host of other oil producing countries and could bring them economic hardship. Funny, but I don't recall OPEC worried about Americans' economic well-being during the gas crisis in the 1970s when pump prices soared as supplies were artificially reduced.
Stock prices are being hammered. Until such time as those that make money by stock speculation that drive Lamborghinis and wear $2,000 suits have spent a year looking for a second $10 an hour job to feed their family or are forced to put food on the table by standing in line at a food closet, I doubt very many people who have struggled with high gas prices driving beater subcompacts and shopping at secondhand stores for clothes will have much empathy.
Then there is concern that Americans will buy cars they want instead of what they actually need.
Have any of the economists saying that priced out a fully-loaded Suburban let alone a Land Rover?
I doubt having another $1,196 back in your pocket each year will prompt a commuter driving a Ford Focus to trade it in for a Cadillac Escalade. Not only would the gas mileage more than wipeout any savings at the pump but there is about a $50,000 difference in the sales price. For most driving Suburbans is a function of wealth which is why folks such as Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio who lecture the rest of us about driving gas guzzlers own entire stables of them not to mention private jets.
Lower gas prices - we are told - will also derail the development of alternative energy sources. Unless Congress is going to yank massive subsidies and tax credits, that isn't going to happen any time soon. The sale of luxury Teslas aren't going to the masses that commute to work at 9-to-5 jobs. They are going to those who aren't in a money squeeze that most people find themselves in and who make enough so that they can take advantage of various state and federal tax credits to buy a $70,000 vehicle.
As for low gas prices hurting ethanol prices, how can that be a bad thing? It means there will be more corn to feed the world as well as to fatten up livestock which brings down meat and other food prices.
Of course, economists must not eat hamburgers and grain products produced from standard agricultural operations. Instead they indulge in grass-fed filet mignon and organic grain that typically cost significantly more than the stuff that makes up the menus at McDonald's.
Then there is the familiar refrain: Dropping oil and falling gas prices will hurt government receipts.
Perhaps economists believe such a dire situation will prompt working stiffs to take to the streets in protest as they chant "tax us more" while smashing windows, burning police cars, and blocking freeways.
It's funny, but state government rarely lives within its means and Uncle Sam never does. The answer for any economic crisis or reduction in money flowing in is to raise taxes and not rethink how they do things.
Unlike the private sector, state and federal government doesn't bite the bullet in an economic downswing but instead pulls the trigger on higher taxes.
Yes, dropping gas prices are horrible.
It's giving families on edge more breathing room with with winter PG&E bills and Christmas.
It's helping countless folks who have to drive to and from two part time jobs now that the retail and food service sector have responded to the federal healthcare insurance mandate by reducing their exposure to more costs.
And in California it will give us at least another 16 days of sub-$3 a gallon gasoline before the stealth greenhouse gas tax slapped on refineries is passed on at the pump.
So I'll ask the question: Are you feeling guilty about paying less for gas knowing that big oil investors, Saudi Arabia princes, and federally subsidized ethanol producers may have to make one less trip to Neiman Marcus in their Bentleys this holiday season because of dropping oil prices?
This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Courier or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.