The MPR newsroom has put together a comprehensive gas prices section. Midday is doing a show at 11 which, if it's something more than playing the already-available MPR reporter pieces, I'll live blog it in search of tips.
Of great interest -- to me -- is a series of online calculators that you can use to confirm -- or overturn -- the wisdom of your various ways to save money. For example, I found on a fill-up, I'm saving a total of 8 cents, by driving the extra distance to the gas station that sells gasoline at 4 cents a gallon less than the closer station. At that rate of savings, and at the current rate of gasoline inflation, I will "earn" a free gallon of gasoline... in August 2009.
The Star Tribune today, meanwhile, carried a troubling story about people basically resigning themselves to whatever the cost of gasoline is, without intending to change any habits to alleviate the pain. Our ancestors, who once did without nylon stockings and tin, and won a world war that way, are rolling over, no doubt.
MPR's Marty Moylan has a terrific story today on how gas prices are spurring the sales of smaller cars... maybe.
He notes, however, that last year eight of the top 10 best-selling vehicles in Minnesota were trucks, vans, SUVs or mid-size sedans.
But hybrids are in and they're always a good deal in times of rising gas prices, right? Not always, and certainly not right away.
Jesse Toprak, director or industry analysis for Edmunds.com, says buying new fuel-efficient cars doesn't always save consumers money.
"You have to really look at the entire cost associated with the ownership of a new car and compare it, as best as you can, to the old car you have," Jesse Toprak of Edmunds.com told Marty. "And if you get a new car with a new monthly payment and higher insurance at the end your net result may end up being negative."
"Savings calculators" on some of the car company Web sites, not surprisingly, are notoriously misleading.
Take the Honda Civic Hybrid Web site, for example. If I were to trade in my 28 mpg car for a 45 mile per gallon hybrid, I would save $2,954.76 a year. Except, that I won't.
First, the current car is paid for so one would have to take on the cost of a new car loan. Using the car calculator at Cars.com, figuring on a $24,000 for the new car, anticipating $1,000 trade-in, a four year loan, current interest rates, and the Minnesota sales tax, it would cost $5,180 just to finance the purchase. You can buy a lot of gas for $5,180 (Note: If you're reading this a few years into the future, the price of gas was $4 a gallon when this was written, not the $5,180.9 a gallon it is now).
The first registration costs twice the amount of a renewal. That's another $99. The monthly insurance is going to be much higher (especially since the Civic is one of the most-often-stolen cars) and pretty soon the period to recoup the investment through reduced fuel usage (and maybe a tax break) is fairly high. That doesn't make it a bad idea, of course, it just makes it not as great an idea as we might've been led to believe.
Business Week's blog had an item last week on the anticipated 2009 Prius hybrid models, and lamented the lack of a plug-in version. It also suggested the payback period for some hybrids can be as short as 18 months. (Unfortunately, some of the links in the post don't work).
There's another potential downside of the hybrid (or more accurately: of us). Given higher mileage: the driver is more likely to drive more often, negating the impact of the purchase, according to the Asbury Park Press.
And that brings us back, again, to the key to fighting the rising cost of energy: the willingness to focus on fighting it.
$20 Challenge update: I've been trying to limit my gas purchases to $20 a week, and adjust my driving to whatever the fuel gauge tells me. How am I doing? On the ride home last night, the "check gauges" light came on. I've got enough to get to work today, but perhaps I should bring a blanket and pillow.... or tin and nylons.(16 Comments)
Now that the legislative session is over and light-rail into St. Paul is to be a reality, the hard part -- making it work -- is next. The U, of course, is dead set against light-rail on Washington Avenue. Some businesses on University are worried about losing parking spaces, and even American Public Media/Minnesota Public Radio is trying to get light rail's planned route down Cedar Avenue moved.
Why? It's worried about the impact of vibration and noise from the trains on its radio and broadcast studios a few feet away from the tracks.
To test the impact of vibrations, these folks today have set up shop...
dropping watermelons off the roof using this gizmo to pound the pavement and simulate the rumble of a train...
... the vibrations can be measured in studios like this...
... with a sensor on the floor. The readings are then sent back to the guys on the street.
I haven't felt anything in the News Cut cubicle. But usually the only vibration I feel is when Chris Roberts is listening to local bands and tapping his foot in the cubicle next door.(3 Comments)
From the weekly precinct-by-precinct "highlights" from the Minneapolis Police Department crime report:
Because I'm back from vacation, the News Cut Quiz is back from vacation. Here's this week's version -- a classic mix of pointless popular culture trivia and "I should've known that" factoids.
Good luck. And remember: We're all counting on you.(5 Comments)