Last Saturday, regular unleaded gasoline here in the petrochemical heartland pulsed through the pumps at a mere $2.969 per gallon, but by Sunday the service station owners finally heard about Egypt and Tunisia and Libya and all the turmoil sure to break out around various Mideast oilfields, and so when I filled up after church, each gallon cost me $3.239.
Grains and other commodities had already been spiking along before the poo hit the fan in so many Arab nations, thanks to world population growth, weather disruptions and the conversion of former food crops for use as fuel. (Update: Food has spiked yet again.)
Makers of food and consumer products, such as Procter and Gamble, may be caught between the high price of raw commodities and the higher cost of distribution thanks to more expensive fuel. Or, they may all be taking this opportunity to raise prices, since the recession has forced them to sit on their figurative hands for awhile.
Either way, damn. You already can see how much extra money you’re pouring into your car’s gas tank. And when the food price hikes reach the grocery stores later this year, as Chicago “food consultant” Ron Paul told the Charolotte Observer, “It could shock consumers when it happens.”
I really hate to say I told you so, because I still use gasoline and buy food at the grocery store, so higher prices hurt me, too. I also hate to see this double whammy because it looks like the perfect recipe for a double-dip recession. If half of their money has to go for bread and gas, consumers can’t spend their way out of the hole in which what’s left of the American middle class finds itself.
And I can’t make up for a 5% across-the-board price hike in grocery store factory food just by adding two rows of corn to the back garden and converting the shed to a stealth chicken coop, either. But I might try it anyway.
More likely, I probably should commit to finding and using more locally grown food, rather than spend money supporting the unsustainable practice of shipping fruit from places like Chile to be consumed in places like Texas.