The high cost of gas 

The short guy using the gas pump next to mine slammed the hose back into the machine and said out loud to no one in particular, “I never thought I would live long enough to have to pay $45 to fill up my car.” I and another fellow grunted our agreement. What’s the reason for us having to pay $2.74 a gallon in Little Rock? The war, of course, which has affected the flow of oil from overseas to the United States. But there’s also another reason — the lack of refineries in the United States that are running around the clock. Building one of them costs in the billions. Also, it takes five years to get an air quality permit. There’s such a shortage that the big companies are having to import about 10 percent of refined gas. So many people who can’t afford the high prices are now riding trains, buses and car pools. Central Arkansas Transit Authority now has about 600 more riders every day than it had six months ago. That raises the daily count to 8,500. So far the bus ticket remains $1.10. To help workers who have to go outside Little Rock and North Little Rock, CAT has started going to and from Jacksonville every day on a new route that goes to Sherwood and Gravel Ridge – two routes in the morning and three in the afternoon. CAT is busy trying to put bicycle racks on the back of their buses because many people now want to be able to ride a bicycle to and from the bus stop. Strangely Americans don’t criticize the president like they did 25 years ago when the cost of gas went up because of shortages. Then everyone blamed President Jimmy Carter. I guess the difference is that President Bush is fighting a war — a tough guy who went to war after 9-11 and (so far) prevented terrorists from trying to blow up the United States. President Bush hasn’t even criticized the energy producers for the shortage of gas or the price. In fact, he has assisted them in many ways, the latest by signing a bill that gives the producers tax breaks to cover the high prices they are now paying for crude oil prices. The New York Times estimates that the bill will save $14 billion for the big energy producers. Some critics are hoping that the companies will be inspired to build more refineries in the United States — something that should have been done years ago. If there had been more we wouldn’t be paying these high prices. Why hasn’t the government forced Exxon Mobil, Chevron Texaco, ConocoPhillips and Arkansas’s own Murphy Oil to build more refineries and avoid the high cost of gas? One reason might be that the man President Bush appointed to run the Federal Trade Commission is a lawyer who used to work for Chevron Texaco. It’s interesting that Sherwood will soon be Arkansas’s center of guns, ammunition, sports and outdoor equipment, clothes and other accessories. One store is already on the east side of Highway 67 and two more will be on the west side of that busy highway that turns off Interstate 40 and takes you to Jacksonville and Walnut Ridge and much of northeast Arkansas. Gander Mountain, which has 90 stores across the nation, bought the old Wal-Mart building and made it into a huge outdoors store led by Cordy Anderson, an Arkansan. Right across from it is the old Best Buy building. The rumor is that soon it will be bought by a nationwide gun store. On the western side of Highway 67 on Warden Road is a new building for Academy Sports, a sporting goods and gun store like one already in Little Rock. The big surprise, however, is that next spring, central Arkansas’s best-known gun shop, Fort Thompson, will move into the old Tractor Supply building a few blocks south of Academy Sports. Fort Thompson has been operating in Rose City in North Little Rock since 1931. Tom Denniston, who grew up in Rose City and has owned Fort Thompson for 20 years, says it will be hard to leave Rose City, but he thinks his store needs to be in a growing area, which Rose City is not. No one will say it but the movement of these businesses to this four-lane highway is a defensive move if Bass Pro, another major gun retailer, comes to North Little Rock in a shopping center on Interstate 40 that will cost $120 million. Mayor Pat Hays thinks it will happen despite problems from an environmentalists’ lawsuit. Up in Fayetteville, a lawsuit may change the interpretation of the legislature’s Tax Increment Financing (TIF) law passed at the last session. TIFs , which are found in 30 states, allow cities to grab school taxes to bring businesses to sluggish parts of town. North Little Rock couldn’t help build this elaborate shopping center without TIFs. Personally, I don’t want taxes taken away from schools. And I’m not happy the National Rifle Association might hold its national convention in Little Rock.


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