Gas Prices Spike Across California

Oct 5th, 2012 | Posted by

After a brief respite at the end of the summer, gas prices in California are rising sharply, with shortages being reported in Southern California.

$4.63 gallon

Gas prices in Southern California jumped 9 cents overnight Wednesday into Thursday, and experts say they’ll continue to rise. Thursday saw the largest single-day increase in average price ever, DeHaan said….

The current situation has been exacerbated by a power outage at a refinery in Torrance on Monday that halted production. It follows a power outage and weeklong shutdown at a refinery in Wilmington in mid-September.

“We have definitely heard from our members that they are unable to get unbranded fuel at some terminals in California and that the roof has blown off the price of unbranded fuel,” McKeenan said….

Costco in Simi Valley closed its gas station Thursday after running out of supplies and will remain closed until further notice.

While this particular spike seems the product of unusual circumstances, we know that the underlying factors remain clear: gas prices will continue to rise, as they have for the last 10 years. In October 2002 the average price of a gallon of gas in California was $1.55. Today it’s nearly $3 more, at $4.49. While prices have fluctuated since the great spike of 2008, at no time have prices in California been below $3 per gallon for any extended length of time.

As global oil production peaks, supplies will begin to become less reliable. Shortages and rising prices will become, slowly and over time, a more frequent part of daily life. And that makes the provision of electrified alternatives, including high speed rail, all the more important.

Anti-HSR folks always assume that the status quo will last forever. It hasn’t even lasted 10 years. The trends are clear – gas prices are going to continue rising. California’s economy will be strangled by rising prices, and the only way out is to move to non-oil based methods of travel. There’s no excuse for delay. The cost of doing nothing is far greater than the cost of acting.

  1. Paul Druce
    Oct 5th, 2012 at 08:05

    I submit that, in the typical overwrought Californian style, we name this the Gaspocalypse.

    Jon Reply:

    Oh noes, gas prices are approaching half of European levels! Clearly this is the end of the world!

    Reality Check Reply:

    Recently was in Turkey … some of the most expensive gas I’ve seen anywhere at $9.50 (diesel $8.50) per gallon.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Did you have a chance to ride their HSR lines? (I realize that current construction means that practically all rail services to Istanbul are suspended.)

    Reality Check Reply:

    Sadly, no. And not for lack of trying either. Until that damn taking-forever Marmaray rail tunnel project under the Bosporus Strait is finished, they’ve shut down all long-distance and/or HSR between Istanbul and points east. Intercity long-distance buses are plentiful, cheap and of surprisingly high quality. Lots of spotlessly maintained European buses criss-cross the country day and night. Interestingly, none of them (as far as I could ascertain) had on-board toilets despite most featuring seat-back satellite TV and things like WiFi. Even in-country flights are relatively cheap with advance booking.

    Matthew F. Reply:

    If half the price were going to benefit the public good instead of lining the pockets of the refineries, I wouldn’t mind.

    ericmarseille Reply:

    Here in France petrol is between $ 7.60 and $ 7.80 a gallon depending on the grade and service station (somewhere between € 1.55 to € 1.70 a liter).
    at the height of the spike three months ago I think I did a full tank of 59 liters for €95, more than $ 120 for less than 16 gallons of gas.
    When, oh when, shall I be able to buy a Renault ZOE?….

    Peter Reply:

    I like the ZOE’s battery quickdrop. Do you know if this is related to Project Better Place?

    ericmarseille Reply:

    the quickdrop idea has been abandoned for France ; it clearly didn’t convince Renault’s Direction not the public powers ; EDF has lobbied against Better Place also
    There may still be a chance that the ZOE is Better Place compatible, which it was supposed to be in the first place (but communication is sketchy at best on this issue), which would mean commercialization under better place’s auspices only, in Israel, Australia, Denmark, maybe Hawaii (I doubt it) and, even more highly improbable, in some California places, only from Q2 2013 at best in the places closer to France like Denmark and israel.

    Renault engineers are not interested in Better Place designs because it weakens the vehicule’s chassis ; Ghosn is bullish on future fast-charging infrastrucutre and future improvements in batteries.

    It clearly looks like that, after the contractual Fluence ZE and(?) ZOE, unless a miracle happens, Renault will ditch BP compatible cars ; I’m convinced that they secretively hope it to fail ASAP by now, that they consider it a dead end.

    Peter Reply:

    That may be happening sooner than later: Better Place Replaces CEO Shai Agassi

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Mind you, the way Better Place is intending to work in Israel is to get waivers from car taxes (which it already got), and further down the line get the government to ban competing proposals for battery charging. It’s a profiteering arrangement rather than a sound business plan.

  2. James in PA
    Oct 5th, 2012 at 10:59

    Hmm, the presidential election is one month away. The Reps are looking for any way to make the Dems look bad. A few voters in swing states are on the fence….spike!

    J. Wong Reply:

    California is not a swing state, and the gas price spike is unique to it.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    It will likely affect the rest of the West Coast as well due to how oil moves around.

    Matthew F. Reply:

    If this has any macro economic effect, it will decrease overall oil demand, leading to lower oil prices elsewhere.

    James in PA Reply:

    Stick it to CA and talk about in the swing states.

    VBobier Reply:

    Correct, there aren’t enough of one party or the other to make CA into a swing state…

    James in PA Reply:

    I did not say CA was anywhere close to a swing state.

    Michael Reply:

    California borders Nevada. That’s a swing state. It’s close to California. (ha, ha, ha!)

    VBobier Reply:

    Get Yer eyes checked James PA, I did not say CA was in any way a swing state…

    I said:

    “there aren’t enough of one party or the other to make CA into a swing state…”

    JBaloun Reply:

    I’m not getting progressive lens glasses next time…

    VBobier Reply:

    I like My GMAC car insurance a lot, it’s less expensive than most, recently they lowered My rate from $21.33 a month to $15.33 a month…

    Nathanael Reply:

    Since President Obama has the Presidential election locked up (thanks mostly to Romney being an out-of-touch elitist and constant liar), what’s interesting politically is downticket elections: Senate, House, state legislature. California is not electing Republicans to the Senate any more, so this can’t affect that much either.

    However, this sort of event *could* have an influence on the US House and state legislature elections, which are actually extremely important. I have no idea what effect it would have though, as I think that would have to be analyzed district-by-district.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Odd things are going on. I’m in the new 23rd. Bill Owens, a bit of a blue dog, is ahead by 12 points. In a part of the state that has been voting Republican since the Whigs were in power.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    So that’s it, Hoffman is toast?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Hoffman rode off into the sunset after 2010, he ran on the Conservative line and if I remember correctly, got 6 percent of the vote. Doheny, the Republican nominee in 2010 is running again.
    Upstaters maybe very very conservative in the traditional sense of the word but they don’t like bat shit insane.
    Owens won a plurality in 2010, it seems possible he may get a majority this time. But the gerrymander is different than it was in 2010.

    Nathanael Reply:

    “Upstaters maybe very very conservative in the traditional sense of the word but they don’t like bat shit insane.”

    Heck, I’m conservative in the traditional sense of the word! What’s weird for me is seeing organic farmers (dictionary-conservative in every sense) voting Republican, while the Republican electeds vote to hurt their businesses.. This sort of anomaly can’t last, which should cause momentous political changes.

    I think many people in upstate NY are still imagining a different breed of Republican politician, one which has gone the way of the dinosaur on the state level and above. Once the scales fall off people’s eyes, things will change.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    when was the last time a Republican candidate for Governor, in NY, lost this badly. Especially after the………… upsetting politics of 2008 and 2009?,_2010

    Charles Reply:

    Actually, this could sway someone in either direction. Either this proves Romney is right to want to use more domestic oil or Obama is right to want to expand our use of alternative energy. Both sides have a “solution” for our dependence on foreign oil, it’s just a matter of which solution you’re inclined to vote for. Moreover, when your typical voter hears of this, they’re more likely to put it into a ”oil=bad, green=good, Romney=oil, Obama=green” equation.

    For the record, I’m not supporting the idea that this is a conspiracy by either side. Gas prices jump, it’s what they do. Eventually they’ll come down a little (but never far enough) and then spike again. Watch for the spikes before the holiday season and before summer vacations start. It’s like clockwork.

    VBobier Reply:

    Agreed, gas prices are set by the market, Nixon had price controls, but those were taken away by Congress years ago, since then No President has had any sort of price controls. Yesterday the lowest price on gas(87) was $4.069 a gallon, this morning it was $4.279 and it still is, thankfully I don’t have to go to more than the Post Office, a 5.0 mile round trip each time.

    VBobier Reply:

    The lowest Gas prices in the Barstow CA area are $4.599 for 87($5.199 max), 89 has a max of $5.299 a gallon($4.699 min), so far 91 maxed out at $5.399($4.899 min), Diesel ranges from $4.439 to $4.959 a gallon of course…

    Nathanael Reply:

    That’s what happens when cheap oil runs out. It has run out.

    It’s well past time to switch to *renewable* energy. (Renewable means “doesn’t run out”, you know.)

    Matthew F. Reply:

    Paranoid much?

  3. Trebor
    Oct 5th, 2012 at 13:01

    They can’t build high-speed rail fast enough. We can either start weening ourselves off petroleum because this is going to be the new normal or we can whine about gas prices. I would rather do the former rather keep doing the latter.

    flowmotion Reply:

    Spoken like a true blue Marin County Prius driver.

    HSR’s affect on oil use will be negligible. Instead, if you sunk those $100 bills into regional transit that people would actually use, HSR is a net negative alternative. (Not that that mattes to Mill Valley Inc. residents..)

    Please sort your advocacy out with the worthless newsprint in the trash (as you do). HSR is an economic development program for SF-LA that also benefits the low-rent Central Valley. It doesn’t save gas. It doesn’t solve traffic congestion. It doesn’t cut CO2s. If you think otherwise, just write Liberal Doofus on your skull and you’ll be far more poplar in whatever Marin town than you would be posting here.

    synonymouse Reply:

    It certainly is an economic development program for PB and likely Tuto-Saliba, with Palmdale and Las Vegas eager for freebies. Workfare for favored unions and juicy campaign contributions kicked back to machine politicians.

    Nathanael Reply:

    HSR’s *effect* (check your spelling, please) on oil use will be much more significant than you think, though it will happen through indirect network and cultural effects, not direct diversion of traffic.

    Trebor Reply:

    This assumption makes you look foolish. I live in San Francisco.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    HSR’s affect on oil use will be negligible. Instead, if you sunk those $100 bills into regional transit that people would actually use, HSR is a net negative alternative. (Not that that mattes to Mill Valley Inc. residents..)

    Here’s the thing: There are no large scale power plants supplying California that burn petroleum. We have some that burn natural gas, some that burn coal, some that are nuclear, some that are hydropower, but as far as I know, flipping the switch on the HSR project doesn’t itself increase demand for gasoline.

    The presumption you make that the project will encourage sprawl and growth would seemingly cause gas prices and emissions to increase. But you have to realize that having HSR as a viable option for travellers increases the chance that more Californians will purchase cars that are cleaner but have a lesser range than a standard car.

    And even if that is not true, as more and more of California’s internal petroleum supply is depleted, gas will become more expensive and that will drive down emissions.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    but as far as I know, flipping the switch on the HSR project doesn’t itself increase demand for gasoline.

    Induced travel would actually. But he’s comparing it to projects which would be rather more effective at reducing gasoline consumption, so spending it on HSR is a net negative alternative compared to those projects.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Local rail may be “more effective”, but without regional rail, people will keep buying cars, buying gasoline, and taking flights. People need to see a complete *system* of alternatives to gasoline before they’ll change their mentality.

    The intercity line may be the least “valuable” in terms of GHG reduction, but it is *necessary* psychologically. And that means it’s necessary politically, too.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Is this actually true? In other words, do people in Vancouver, Singapore, Mexico City, and other cities with decent and expanding local transit but terrible or nonexistent intercity rail buy cars just for the long-distance trips?

    jim Reply:

    When they buy cars, they buy cars that are capable of long-distance trips. One that wouldn’t be capable of a long-distance trip would be ruled out of consideration.

    This matters because zero-emission vehicles are not currently capable of long-distance trips.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Yes the dealer lots are just overflowing with hard to sell electric cars…

    Peter Reply:

    Electric Car Supply Far Outstrips Demand

    synonymouse Reply:

    The purpose of the PB-CHSRA scheme is to encourage sprawl. This is the reason for the Palmdale deviation – they want to build another LA in the high desert.

    Derek Reply:

    Synonymouse, sprawl isn’t high density development clustered around rail stations. Sprawl is low density suburban development away from transit centers.

    Peter Reply:

    Like Rohnert Park.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The kind of sprawl that BART enabled in the East Bay.

    C’mon cheerleaders, just scream it on out, like Hugo Chavez. Single party government funneling money and benefits to friends of the regime and and punishing enemies and dissidents. Seizing wealth and putting it into the hands of central planning. Grandiose infrastructure schemes, not so much planned as pandered, that cannot be self-sustaining. Meanwhile the basal infrastructure, as in Venezuela’s petrochemical industry, deteriorates and shrinks as business interests refrain from investment.

    TehaVegaSkyRail is a scheme designed to benefit PB, Tutor-Saliba, probably Bombardier, Palmdale real estate developers and Sin City casino moguls like Adelson and Wynn. End of story. You’ve got it locked and loaded – a Machine done deal – why not just cut out the greenshit. and bask in your supermajority coup. Monumental gilded equestrian statues for Moonbeam and the Crones.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Grandiose infrastructure schemes, not so much planned as pandered, that cannot be self-sustaining.

    Like the road system or the air system?

    synonymouse Reply:

    The air system has no fixed guideway system and no enormously expensive physical plant and real estate. It is very easy to adjust air service vis-a-vis traffic, politix permitting.

    Ironic you should cite the road system, wherein the worst grandiose infrastructure schemes are the devastating urban freeways. These are the disasters that PB seeks to emulate with its massive CAHSR elevateds thru Fresno, for instance. Ironic too that one of the singularly successful grandiose road system schemes, namely the I-5 freeway, is the one PB has gone to such great lengths to ignore and/or spurn.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    no enormously expensive physical plant and real estate.

    The billions they spend on new runways or terminals isn’t expensive? The thousands of acres of prime real estate they take up doesn’t count? Or the property taxes they don’t pay on billions of dollars of terminal and thousands of acres of prime real estate?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Most of the concrete being poured at a facility like SFO is to accommodate the hordes of automobiles belonging to the airline passengers. That’s what the public wants and has paid for.

    Take a look at a place like Sacramento. The land being occupied by the airport and support facilities is a mere fraction of the area devoted to shopping centers and their parking lots. And you know half of this retail development is redundant.

    Besides the airlines and what they have of a physical plant is profitable, self-supporting and provides much employment. Airline service is in such demand that if wanted or necessary all of the costs of the physical plant could be slapped onto ticket prices and swallowed.

    Ask Nancy or any of the other machine hacks if they consider airports a waste. Where would she land Air Force One?

    Is Her Office in DC on the property tax rolls? Or any public housing projects?

    Nathanael Reply:

    The physical plant and real estate at airports is enormously, ridiculously expensive.

    Back in the early days, it wasn’t, but back in those days, you walked straight out onto a grass runway and got into a a plane where the pilot took your tickets. Not scalable.

    Derek Reply:

    I wonder if cities earn back more in airfare tax revenue than the opportunity cost of the land occupied by the airport.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Try taking off out of SFO some time and you’ll find out how intensively used are those runways. Especially when the weather’s not perfect.

    Bay flats that might be underwater in time if you subscribe to global warming.

    Peter Reply:

    Bay flats that might be underwater in time if you subscribe to global warming.

    “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson

  4. William
    Oct 5th, 2012 at 15:02

    As people stated before, because of California’s unique blend of gasoline, most of the gasoline we used are refined in-state. This is why when the gasoline price spiked in East and South due to Hurricane, California gasoline price comparably rose much less. Unfortunately, this is also why local supply problem often lead to spike in gasoline price in-state.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    It’s not because of our unique blend, it’s because we have two thirds of the refining capacity for PADD 5, which is not connected to the rest of the nation by pipeline. I doubt that our blend actually has an effect on prices.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Anyone heard of ships?

    joe Reply:

    Yes. What’s your point ? Do you suggest they just ship oil to CA as needed?

    Both W and P are right – 1) Reconfiguring to refine the type of gasoline required in CA is costly and has opportunity costs for shutting down and not refining oil for existing customers. 2) There is a delay/cost to bring US oil to CA in response to these temporary supply driven price spikes. Bonus: Once a company loads oil on a tanker, it’s available to sell to the highest bidder on the global market.

    Plus companies have – hopefully – contracts that bought this oil and wait for shipment.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Brown has announced that winter blend can be sold a few weeks early. Finally some common sense. The supply problem is compounded by a fixed changeover date. The weather doesn’t know what date it is. If the refiners are given a 4 – 6 week changeover period, and even some direction so as to sequence the refinery shutdowns these glitches could be avoided. And, (this is where the ships come in) if the refiners are obliged to forecast their supply capability, and if there is a shortfall anticipated, non-compliant gasoline could be imported under temporary permit to make up the difference.

    VBobier Reply:

    Well it can’t get here fast enough, the low price just reached $4.399 and the high is at $5.959… And this is for 87 gas, even 91 octane is cheaper out here…

    VBobier Reply:

    Also a friend mentioned this:

    Here is an industry web site with some answers to your questions.

    Oil Price Net

    Main problem is refining capacity. No new refineries have been build since 1976 and I know of several that have closed down. Even if we can get oil we lack the capacity to process it at the levels we are consuming it.

    joe Reply:

    Using the weather to decide when to change over is less predictable. That makes planning harder. Making a window to switch would allow winter blend in summer weather and worsen air quality.

    The price increase may not be purely market forces and accidental.

    This solution is best as an executive decision, in response to rare events and then worthy of a inquirey to assure the prices/supply were not manipulated.
    Problems at several refineries in the state have been blamed for the rising prices. Two months ago, a fire knocked out a 245,000-barrel-a-day refinery in the Bay Area that has still not resumed full production. And last week, a power failure curtailed production at a refinery in Torrance. Full production resumed there on Friday.

    Mr. Brown said he hoped that the switch to the winter-blend gasoline, which evaporates more quickly than gasoline sold during the summer smog season, would stop the climb in prices because it could increase fuel supplies in the state by up to 10 percent. Summer-blend gasoline is better for air quality.

    Senator Dianne Feinstein also asked the Federal Trade Commission on Sunday to investigate the cause of the price increases.

  5. Reality Check
    Oct 5th, 2012 at 15:10
  6. Reality Check
    Oct 5th, 2012 at 15:14

    Opponents request building freeze on high-speed rail
    Injunction would stop work on Merced-Fresno route

    Pending a high-speed rail legal challenge, the Madera and Merced County farm bureaus have asked a judge to freeze construction on a segment of the project.

    While a legal battle plays out over the proposed route between Merced and Fresno, the judge in the case has agreed to consider temporarily halting any development.

    Moving forward too soon could needlessly destroy farmland and waste taxpayer dollars if the proposed route ends up being modified, said Anja Raudabaugh, Madera County Farm Bureau executive director.

    Matthew F. Reply:

    The thing is, you could just post this every day until the first train runs. They lost on the ballot, they lost in the legislatures, they lost in EIR, so they’re going to try to throw as many legal fits as they can.

    VBobier Reply:

    I predict they’ll lose ad infinitum…

  7. Alon Levy
    Oct 5th, 2012 at 16:11

    It’s good news. It means the economy is improving (which it is – look at the jobs report), and of course more economic activity means more demand and higher prices for inelastic goods.

    Nathanael Reply:

    All true.

    There is a line of thinking which says that every time we get economic recovery, the price of oil will spike — and that oil is so heavily embedded in our economy that the spikes will *choke off economic recovery*. In other words, we’re economically doomed until we restructure our economy so that it doesn’t really depend on oil.

    Now, we know how to do that, it’s a matter of political will.

    Matthew F. Reply:

    You must have posted this before the underlying causes for the price spike were reported. This is not the result of increased demand, but constrained supply.

  8. JJJ
    Oct 5th, 2012 at 17:53

    While temporary price spikes are obviously temporary, it shows why this state (and the country) needs REDUNDANCY.

    I you cant drive from A to B because its suddenly unaffordable…then you need another option. Our economy doesnt exactly work if people stay home and stop all purchases.

    Likewise, if the grapevine closes due to snow (like it does every year) its critical that people are able to travel. Imagine if a multimillion dollar deal collapses because some of the agents get stuck if the road closes and theres no alternative?

    Shit happens. We need to prepare for it, and HSR is a very suitable way to prepare.

    Mind you, building redundancy for the sake of redundancy is wasteful and poor form, but building useful modes that ACT as redundancy? That makes sense.

    VBobier Reply:


    Nathanael Reply:

    Agreed. Exactly.

  9. missiondweller
    Oct 5th, 2012 at 20:38

    Is it just me or do all of these refinery shutdowns remind you of the electric plant shutdowns that happened in 2001 that turned out to be collusion and market manipulation by Enron?

    VBobier Reply:

    Yeah to a point, except for two refineries, one of which was offline cause of a fire and the other cause of a power outage, the other 2 or so are supposedly maintenance related, which the oil industry says they don’t need to build anymore of…

    missiondweller Reply:

    “down for maintenance” That’s the part that sounds like 2001.

    VBobier Reply:

    Yeah, agreed, that and Big Oil not willing to do more than close refineries and then say that they have enough capacity… All the while boosting prices at the pump, into the stratosphere…

    joe Reply:

    What is the long term incentive to boost capacity if the supply of oil is not increasing? I think companies have enough refining capacity for the long term supply of oil available to refine so they have no incentive to invest in added capacity to take market share. They have just enough capacity now and it’s profitable.

    VBobier Reply:

    It’s called having an extra plant, so that the flow of fuel won’t spike like it is now.

    joe Reply:

    Okay. But they have no incentive.

    If they invest in a new refinery (environmental laws not withstanding) to increase capacity well above the market demand, that reserve will allow the industry keep prices down and also reduce profits. It also cost them more to maintain this reserve capacity.

    Refineries will not spend money to reduce profit. They’ll expand to increase market share and increase income least a competitor expand and consequently take that market share.

    Since the global supply is not increasing and they have just enough capacity now, these companies will sit pat with what they have and benefit from any mishap.

    VBobier Reply:

    Texaco has(If it’s still there) an R&D Refinery in the Whittier Narrows in CA, it isn’t as big as some, but it is a refinery, I know as I used to work there guarding the place as a Security Guard before I moved away from the area… That place isn’t exactly a FREEBIE…

  10. D. P. Lubic
    Oct 6th, 2012 at 07:51

    In other news, Washington, DC, is considering “retro” streetcars–in other words, bringing back PCCs:

    Japan has a most interesting railroad museum, which just happens to include at least part of a restored 1964 Shinkansen; maybe in another 20 years we’ll be where the Japanese were almost 50 years ago:

    Tokyo also has what amounts to a living museum, a trolley line, one of only two left in the city, and the only one that still runs on some street trackage, Toden Arakawa:

    Cool station restoration in Tokyo:

    Have fun

    synonymouse Reply:

    @ D.P.

    Hard to swallow that in 1960 it was virtually impossible to talk to anyone about the wisdom of retaining electric transit. The political and transit management establishment types would simply look at you as a weirdo living in the past.

    The foamers have no ideas how fast and hard public opinion can be manipulated it against you and how important it is to plan and spend carefully and wisely. The problem with street railways is that they are easily replaced with buses – you need capital improvements like tunnels and reserved ROW’s to make the service better than a bus and not expendable.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Syn, I’ve had a glimpse of what you describe (being called a Communist and all, and that only about 20 years ago!). The rigid, anti-rail tea party/conservative outlook remains of that today. That glimpse has told me I live in the wrong time–too young to have been with my steam engines and classic trolleys, and too old to be part of the new generation that will eventually see this come back.

    I don’t have the source immediately handy, but I am reminded of something by E. Jay Quinby. He was an electric railroad enthusiast and author, and for a time was the president of the Greene Line Steamboat Company (operators of the Delta Queen). He was the fellow who put together the National City Lines case. People thought he was nuts then (late 1940s–early 1960s). One of his comebacks to the people who wanted to see the trolleys disappear was to ask them, “Who is going to pay to put this back when you decide you will need it again?”

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    So the airports and roads are supported by the tax dollars of the stalwart yeomanry of Real America but using the same tax dollars for rail is an evil Communist plot designed to suck the lifeblood out of the stalwart yeomanry. Okay.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    That’s about how the so-called conservative types see it, along with John N. here (well, maybe not quite that bad in the case of John N. . . .).

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Speaking of the 1950s and 1960s reminded me of something. Recently we’ve had a presidential candidate get himself in hot water for calling 47% of the population “freeloaders” because they didn’t pay income taxes. Prior to that, some others have expressed the opinion that having only 53% of the population paying income taxes was a sign of an unsustainable gap between spending and taxes. That got me curious to see what taxpayer participation looked like in a better economic time, like the 1950s.

    What I did find was a figure from 1960. You can only imagine how surprised I was to find that the ratio of taxpayers to the population then was–be sure you’re sitting down–49%! That’s 4% lower than today, and was actually in minority status! Back then, you may have not had as many retirees as today, but most women then worked in the home, and a lot of the baby boomers were still babies, or at best young teens.

    There was an even greater irony in my searching. My source for the 49% ratio was a paper by some conservative writer who was upset that some members of Congress were considering a “stunning” maximum tax rate in excess of 60%. I found it curious to later find that he didn’t mention the maximum tax rate in 1960 was only about 84%! Whooee! Of course, there used to be a lot more tax brackets than what we have now, and there a lot more deductions a lot of people could take that you can’t take now.

    In any event, though, I think this reveals that talk of a ratio of taxpayer participation and maximum tax rates is, at best, misguided. I think we have other problems that are deeper (i.e., oil dependency) that no one wants to talk about. The question is, why? Are these other problems too frightening? Are they perceived as too difficult? Do the political and pundit classes find them too wonky, or too hard to explain? Are the political and pundit classes worried about losing their jobs for speaking the truth that some powerful people don’t want to get out? Or are the political and pundit classes just as clueless as they so often seem to be to those of us who know a few things?

    I couldn’t find my original source for the 49% ratio, but I did find some other things that may be of interest.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Back in the 50s the median woman earned zero dollars. Most women didn’t work for wages.

    Doing t

    he week’s laundry took up most of a day for my grandmother. When my mother got married it took up half a day – a load of wash had to be actively managed when you are using a wringer washing machine and running hot water. A great improvement over my grandmother’s wash boiler, washboard and hand cranked wringer. Today I throw a load wash into the machine and walk away. It takes minutes to do a basket of laundry. More time to hang the clothes in the closet than it takes to wash them.

    Grandma spent a good part of her day tending the fire. Hauling the coal to the stove, hauling the ashes to the bin. Regulating the heat. When my mother got married she was able to afford the apartment with central heat – still coal fired but a radiator in the kitchen near the gas stove. I fiddle with a thermostat when it gets chilly in the house. And if I don’t feel like cooking on my gas stove with the self cleaning oven I can pull something out of my frost free freezer and pop it in the microwave. . . leaves me with lots of free time to do things like make comments on blogs….

    …one thing I do that my grandmother didn’t do is waste time in the car. Both lived in a trolley suburb and never had a car. Didn’t need one….

    Jerry Reply:

    So if it’s death to that Communist Big Bird today
    can HSR be far behind??
    PS But no cuts ever to the Military Budget.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The most important social purpose of income taxes is really to make sure that very rich people don’t become so rich that they can simply buy the government. (The way rich people do in fact buy the government now.)

    Accordingly, I actually think most Americans shouldn’t pay income taxes. I’d suggest income taxes only on the 1% — that is, after all, where the money is. Same with the estate tax, which serves the same purpose.

    We don’t want to disincentivize hiring people or disincentivize work for ordinary people, but we DO want to disincentivize money-grubbing by the already-rich.

    The majority of Americans will still pay payroll tax (“national insurance” as they call it in Europe), sales tax, property tax, pollution tax, fees, tariffs, tolls, etc….

  11. Roger Christensen
    Oct 6th, 2012 at 08:34

    I wonder if the Calif price spike will move LA County voters to adopt Measure J?
    The early completion of the Wilshire subway into job rich Century City and Westwood will be a game changer for Metro and Metrolink ridership.

    VBobier Reply:

    It might, We’ll just have to wait and see, hopefully it’ll pass, LA County could use the jobs and the rail transit.

  12. James M. in Irvine
    Oct 6th, 2012 at 09:24

    Last night, FOX NEWS Los Angeles had a lot of HSR bashing, but I don’t see the articles on their home page.

    It is so infuriating that they only tell one side of the story. They had many chances to show another side, like the cost of infrastructure without HSR, how it could help travel during a gas price spike, or clean our air. All they kept harping on is the 68 billion cost figure, not enough money to finish it or where it will come from, and how HSR isn’t listening to farmers. Such is the life of a FAUX, i guess

    Jim M

    Derek Reply:

    “With gas prices on the rise, we can’t afford to build electric high speed rail” is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  13. James in PA
    Oct 7th, 2012 at 08:40

    I hear Caltrain was sold out standing room only on all trains leaving the SF Giants play-off game last night.

    Jeff Carter Reply:

    Well, we have Fleet Week, parade of ships, Blue Angels, Giants playoff, 49ers, Bluegrass Festival, Stanford football…

    Caltrain announced at their Thursday Oct. 4, 2012 JPB meeting, that they are cautioning about overcrowding this weekend, but they will the best they can. They don’t have enough locomotive engineers to run any ‘extra’ trains. However, they did say that they flew in 2 engineers from an agency back east (VRE?) to cover any problems and protect the regular service. Apparently the reasoning is that if they use too many engineers on the weekend, they will not be rested enough for the weekday service on Monday.

    I did some Caltrain observations at Millbrae; apparently Caltrain ran extra ‘advance’ trains ahead of nearly every regularly scheduled train on Saturday. Nearly every train looked to be standing room only. The Caltrain parking lot at Millbrae looked almost like a weekday. At 2:00 pm there were 101 cars (61% full), at 5:00 pm there were 124 cars (75% full), whereas on a typical weekday at 5:00 pm Millbrae has around 135 cars (82% full).

    Perhaps its time for Caltrain to consider running every 30 minutes, at the very minimum on the weekends, midday and evenings on weekdays. Ridership continues to grow, gas prices keep rising, and people are looking for alternatives to driving. Once an hour just doesn’t cut it anymore.

    James M. in Irvine Reply:

    Can’t wait to see their October ridership increase! Sounds like they are on track for more records!


    Clem Reply:

    Where is this Caltrain parking lot in Millbrae? I always park in a 3000-car parking structure when I go there.

    Marc Reply:

    The actual Caltrain (as opposed to BART) parking is on the west side of the ROW, extends south 3 or 4 blocks…

  14. jimsf
    Oct 7th, 2012 at 08:49

    I am in palm springs now. when I left to drive down here I filled up for 3.99, Ill have to pay about 4.63 to get home yikes! But what I find super appalling is the complete lack, in socal overall, of using solar, and conserving water.

    Up north, green is practically a religion. But I am horrified when I stay in socal hotels and see the amount of water that comes out of the showerheads. I guess low flow is illegal down here. I mean there is zero effort to conserve and it kind of pisses me off when it is resulting in the death of the delta. further, these resorts and homes n palm springs, with their incredibly high overhead for airconditioning and pool pumps, ( they even use electricity not for heating the pools, but to refrigerate them in the summer!!! but I see nary a solar panel anywhere… in a place that gets about 364 days of sunshine a year. I am baffled. I plan to retire here and I know that the first thing I will do when I buy a home is install solar panels. YOu would think the resorts would do it save money at least if not for moral reasons. I don’t get it. southern californians are so out of touch with the fact they have no resources whatsoever and what they use comes from so far away, that they wind up with blatent disregard for conservation. you all better knock it off.

    Peter Reply:

    So, no more plans to move to PSP?

    jimsf Reply:

    oh no definately cant wait to reitre here. Id move here today if i could.

  15. joe
    Oct 7th, 2012 at 09:56

    Julia Brownley is running to represent California’s 26th District in Congress

    Letter to Editor is interesting. Support for HSR is causing cuts to “Healthy Families – obviously not true but interestingly is the bolded comment.

    Furthermore, Brownley voted to cut the “Healthy Families” program that provides healthcare to working poor families and their children. Brownley is clearly out of touch with the needs of Ventura County voters, and that is why I oppose her migrant candidacy for Congress.
    Read more:

    Nathanael Reply:

    What a weird phrase.

  16. D. P. Lubic
    Oct 8th, 2012 at 06:59

    Off topic, but perhaps of interest–commentary from Railway Preservation News on preserving Amtrak AEM-7s, with other commentary on the now-retired E-60s, and a little spot on the new Seimens locomotives:

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