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Local Gas Prices

The other day I paid attention to gas prices along my route from Westminster to Newfane. DANG - what a difference a few miles can make!

For 87 octane, the price ranged from $2.679 (Circle K on Route 30 in Dummerston) to $2.829 (Allen Bros) to $2.959 (Putney Sunoco).

What have you noticed in town?


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Wherever you plan to be, whether in Brattleboro or beyond, check gasbuddy.com to see who's got the best prices where you're headed. You can enter a search by town or zip code.



Handy site.


Dropping below $2.70

It is weird when $2.60+ gas seems shockingly cheap. I must be conditioned to expect gas prices to start with $3 or $4…

Good oil prices for people who didn't pre-pay for their winter fuel, I suppose.


Pre-buy Is Too Much Of a Gamble.

I've found that pre-buying winter's fuel isn't worth it anymore.
First of all, they offer it as early as July/August now. So once your locked in you have to start using that fuel in maybe Sept. potentially using it all up by the end of winter.
Then if you try to buy oil outside of your contract the oil company will "kneecap" you and dump you.
I have found it better to send the oil company some money every so often and build up a credit. Then I can watch the prices and fill up whenever I want. I also buy off road fuel at the gas station about 10 gallons at a time to stretch out my tank if I need to as the prices drop. The off road is only a few cents more than what the oil co. delivers but most companies have a 150 gal minimum so buying in smaller quantities is more palatable.



I was talking with someone else who pre-bought this year and now is stuck overpaying.

The deal with the company is that if you pre-buy, they guarantee it won't be over a certain amount, but if it drops below - no corresponding discount.

He suggested a way around it. Get a 2,000 gallon tank, and only fill it when prices are low. Plus, get a discount for ordering 2,000 gallons all at once. Then, ride it down while others pay the increases. Seems like an expensive way to save money. : )


I think they were pulling your leg

They couldn't have been serious.Or haven't been in Vermont long. In this state I wouldn't want to be responsible for 2,000 gals of fuel oil. They'll fine you to death if you spill 2 gals. Looks like there's some sort of permit for that much on site storage. Not to mention there's a lot more regulation in regards to tanks now also.
I don't worry much about VY but I sometimes lay awake at night worrying about my oil tank leaking and being executed by the state.



Geopolitical brouhaha?

I was reading a column in the Guardian about how destroying the Russian economy might not necessarily be a good thing, and in the comments (I know, I know), I saw an interesting theory connecting our weirdly low gas prices to the US/Putin economic war. Essentially this person conjectured that the US is working through its allies in Saudi Arabia to drive the price of oil down. Now what's especially weird about this is that apparently low oil prices are not a financially good thing for the West or for Russia. So I guess that would make this a game of chicken, or limbo, or whatever the equivalent is when you get to nation state maneuvering.

In any event, today's news that Russia is on the verge of economic collapse makes theories like this one more eye catching. So far, there haven't been obvious explanations as to why this is happening all of a sudden. What could have happened in the last year or so to cause all this mayhem around Russia? Theories abound but one that jumps out is Snowden. How he must grate.


You know, you know what?

The only game of chicken going on is whose conspiracy-theory-of-the-week you're going to buy. This sort of allure reminds me of an otherwise intelligent fellow I met after his seeing the latest Michael Moore film. I asked him what his reaction was. "Ecstasy" he said reverently, looking up to the sky. But maybe there was something in the popcorn.

Conspiracy theories are eye catching when things get so complex we cry out for a simple one-sentence (or one film) explanation. Or when you're a sophomore in college. But there ARE explanations as to "why this is happening all of a sudden". Seek them out. They're out there. The economics writer for the New Yorker, James Surowiecki, is quite a good one to follow. And from what I've read, enjoy the low gas prices while you can. They will go up again, whether Russia is in chaos or not.


Facts and Conspiracies

Conspiracy theories are a blast. I've been reading them for years, and always find them entertaining. There is however a grain of truth in the oil price/rouble story and that is explained succinctly as follows:

"Oil and gas account for 70% of Russia’s exports and Moscow needs an oil price in the region of $100 a barrel to balance its budget. The central bank said that the economy would contract by 4.5% in 2015 if the oil price remains at its current level for the next 12 months.” http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/dec/15/fears-russian-rouble-oil...

So falling oil prices are crushing the rouble, hence the Russian economy, and according to another news story, the Russians can't do much about it because they're banned by sanctions from “turn(ing) to the international financial markets.” http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-12-17/russian-economy-heading-for-crisis...

That leaves the question, why are oil prices dramatically falling? The official reason, near as I can make out, is that fracked fuel from the US is creating increased supply and OPEC is continuing to produce at the same levels, leading to oversupply and hence to lower prices. Now here's where it gets even weirder: OPEC says that it doesn't understand why prices are dropping so far.

The BBC reported it this way on Dec 14: "The fundamentals should not lead to this dramatic reduction [in price]," Mr el-Badri [secretary general of OPEC ] added. Mr el-Badri said Opec was "assessing the situation to determine what the real reasons behind the decrease in oil prices are".

You can see why conspiracy theories get going when even the players involved don't fully understand what's happening. And meanwhile, the big loser in all this is Russia, with whom the West is engaged in economic warfare.



I find the fact that the OPEC minister is scratching his head rather reassuring, and the most plausible reason to punch a hole in your favorite theory, rather than support it. Of course you can tell me "Oh he was purposely put out of the loop", but that's assuming QUITE alot. It's just a tad, a very large size tad, more realistic to assume that he, and others, are in uncharted territory. Which may be uncomfortable, but I find it more comfortable than assuming that anyone really thinks it makes sense to throw Russia into chaos.


Who knows?

I doubt we'll ever know what's really going on but I do agree with you that deliberately throwing Russia into chaos would seem, on its face, like a bad idea.


What could have happened?

"What could have happened in the last year or so to cause all this mayhem around Russia?"
Some will recall that Putin and Russia have invaded a large European nation, annexed a strategic oblast, confiscated the naval vessels and military equipment of a sovereign nation, and fomented civil war. Some claim they are also threatening the security of an EU-ascendant nation.

And then, of course, there was Sochi.



"And then, of course, there was Sochi."

Do you mean the Hitler-was-embarrassed-by-the-1936-Olympics-and-that's-why-he-invaded-Poland theory of warfare?


Ukraine and the Olympics

Yeah, that Ukraine thing that continues to go on. Wasn't there a NATO issue involved there somewhere and something about natural gas?

The right-after-the-Olympics timing really struck me when it happened. With the eyes of the world upon you, in a semi-positive way, you choose that time to annex a former territory that is now part of another sovereign nation. How bizarre. It defies explanation, really. Got any ideas?



I'll bet that oil minister at OPEC must be involved in some way.


Oil sanctions

Putin/Russia is always concerned about NATO expansion, and the political/economic alignment of Ukraine with the EU is seen by Russia as bringing Ukraine dangerously close to becoming a NATO partner or member.
Also, I think it was a NATO commander who raised fears of a Russian invasion of Moldova during the height of invasion confusion, claiming that Russian troops could sweep right through Ukraine into Moldova. The fears were overblown, in my opinion, but there are Russian troops in Transdniestr, a rebel region of Moldova. There were reports, unverified, that Russia had been strengthening their position in Transdniestr. Moldova is the EU-ascendant region I referred to in the first post. The country has a value to Europe similar to the way Ukraine does to Russia. Basically, it's a physical and ideological/economic buffer. They have a long way to go before they're ready for EU membership, but they are headed in that direction for the time being.

The natural gas issue was an energy deal with Ukraine that Russia signed with ousted president Yanukovich that included huge discounts. At the time they claimed it wasn't tied to any agreement to reject alignment with Europe and join the Russian Customs Union, but Russia eventually pulled out of the deal citing the illegitimacy of the new government.
There were concerns that the gas kerfuffle would lead to energy shortages in Western Europe this winter. The pipeline passes through Ukraine to Western Europe. But last I heard, Gazprom had signed a deal with Ukraine for at least a year. Russia doesn't seem to be in any position to turn off the gas at this point.

I was joking about Sochi, but surely the timing of the Crimean invasion, right after Sochi, was no coincidence. A lot of countries would have boycotted had the invasion taken place earlier, and Putin seemed very concerned about the image of the Sochi Olympics.

The cease fire agreement in Eastern Ukraine hasn't been anything more than a concept for the last few months. It was violated almost immediately, and both sides have accused the other of repeated violations. At this point, there's sort of a weird, not-so-limited, warfare going on all the time.

I don't know whether low oil prices are part of a conspiracy, but it does seem obvious that low oil prices have the effect, intended or unintended, of economic sanction on Russia and a few other countries that the West is in opposition with at the moment.


Moldova too?

What is the world coming to? No, just kidding -- very interesting stuff. I hadn't heard much about the Moldova angle, and frankly, I thought I was good knowing Donetsk, never mind Transdniestr. ;) In any event, it's all been quite fascinating, even as it continues to cause people to scratch their heads. Maybe one reason this situation is so confusing is that so many groups have vested interests in the region.

Meanwhile, a story just today (but later in the day) reported that the rouble had stabilized and suggested that Russia's currency problems might be easing. These things move so fast. Just yesterday, Reuters had them on the brink of collapse.



Before I worked in Moldova (briefly) I had heard of it but really knew nothing about it except that it was an ex-Soviet republic. It's no vacation spot - kind of an ex-Soviet backwater - but I found it to be a quite an interesting place.
The people are ethnically Romanian, speak Romanian, and use the Latin alphabet.
The country is primarily agricultural. Their excellent wine is one of their primary agricultural exports.

It is the poorest country in Europe, and suffers from a crumbling infrastructure built during the Soviet era. I would describe the roads as a network of potholes. Rail travel is slow on the neglected tracks. Moldova could feed half of Europe with their fantastic fresh produce, if only they had the infrastructure to get it to market while it was still fantastic and fresh. But since independence, the country has teetered between pro-Russian and pro-Western interests, and for a few elections, no party or coalition had enough votes to meet requirements for a majority.

In the northern part of the country, the poorest region of the poorest country in Europe, the communist party is still dominant. It was quite interesting to work in a part of the country where the Lenin statues are still draped with flowers on holidays. Although I did get a chance to see the Dniestr River, it was near the Ukrainian border. I was forbidden from crossing into Transdniestr, a few kilometers south of the point where the river diverges from the Ukraine border.
The standoff in Transdniestr dates back to Moldova's independence. The ethnic Russian majority in that area feared, at the time, that independence would lead to a union with Romania - essentially Moldova would become a region of Romania. (It was proposed at the time, but never won enough support.) There was a real shooting war along the border, and the (then) Soviets put troops in the area. They've been there since then, and things have remained relatively calm but tense.

The political situation has kept western companies from investing in Moldova in any significant way. At the same time, Russia has banned Moldovan wine exports in retaliation for the country's western ambitions. Over recent years, the government has remained pro-Western and the EU has started easing visa restrictions for Moldovans, so things are moving forward (depending on your viewpoint, I guess) for now. But the issue of Transdniestr and a second autonomous area, Gagauzia, must be resolved before Moldova can really move toward any kind of European integration. Of course, the Russians know that and do what they can to prevent talks on a resolution in Transdniestr.
On the plus side, Moldova has strong democratic institutions.


We see your Ukraine and raise you a Cuba

If Lise's theory is correct, the Cuba news would seem to fall in line with the idea of an ongoing, mostly non-military war with Russia via economics and proxies.

They take Ukraine, we take Cuba. Nyah!


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