(This Dave Barry column was originally published Sunday, April 16, 2000)
If you’ve been to a gas station lately, you have no doubt been shocked by the prices: $1.67, $1.78, even $1.92. And that’s just for Hostess Twinkies. Gas prices are even worse.
Americans are ticked off about this, and with good reason: Our rights are being violated! The First Amendment clearly states: ``In addition to freedom of speech, Americans shall always have low gasoline prices, so they can drive around in `sport utility’ vehicles the size of minor planets.’‘
And don’t let any so-called ``economists’‘ try to tell you that foreigners pay more for gas than we do. Foreigners use metric gasoline, which is sold in foreign units called ``kilometers,’‘ plus they are paying for it with foreign currencies such as the ``franc,’‘ the ``lira’‘ and the ``doubloon.’‘ So in fact there is no mathematical way to tell WHAT they are paying.
But here in the U.S. we are definitely getting messed over, and the question is: What are we going to do about it? Step one, of course, is to file a class-action lawsuit against the cigarette companies. They have nothing to do with gasoline, but juries really hate them, so we’d probably win several hundred billion dollars.
But that is a short-term answer. To truly solve this problem, we must understand how the oil business works. Like most Americans, you probably think that gasoline comes from the pump at the gas station. Ha ha! What an idiot. In fact, the gasoline comes from tanks located UNDER the gas station. These tanks are connected to underground pipelines, which carry large oil tankers filled with oil from the Middle East.
But how did the oil get in the Middle East in the first place? To answer that question, we must go back millions of years, to an era that geologists call the Voracious Period, when giant dinosaurs roamed the Earth, eating everything that stood in their path, except for broccoli, which they hated. And then, one fateful day (Oct. 8), a runaway asteroid, believed by scientists to be nearly twice the diameter of the late Orson Welles, slammed into the Earth and killed the dinosaurs, who by sheer bad luck all happened to be standing right where it landed. The massive impact turned the dinosaurs, via a process called photosynthesis, into oil; this oil was then gradually covered with a layer of sand, which in turn was gradually covered by a layer of people who hate each other, and thus the Middle East was formed.
For many years, the Middle East was content to supply the United States with as much oil as we wanted at fair constitutional prices. But then the major oil-producing nations - Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait and Texas - got all snotty and formed an organization called OPEC, which stands for ``North Atlantic Treaty Organization.’‘ In the 1970s, OPEC decided to raise prices, and soon the United States was caught up in a serious crisis: the Disco Era. It was horrible. You couldn’t go to a bar or wedding reception without being ordered onto the dance floor to learn ``The Hustle.’‘
At the same time, we also had an oil crisis, which was caused by the fact that every motorist in the United States was determined to keep his or her automobile gas tank completely filled at all times. As soon as your gas gauge dropped from ``Full’‘ to ``Fifteen-sixteenths,’‘ you’d rush to a gas station and get in a huge line with hundreds of other motorists who also had nearly full tanks. Also a lot of people, including me, saved on heating oil by buying kerosene space heaters, which enabled us to transform a cold, dank room into a cold, dank room filled with kerosene fumes.
Buying gas and dancing ``The Hustle’‘ with people who smelled like kerosene: That was the seventies.
So anyway, the oil crisis finally ended, and over time we got rid of our Volkswagen Rabbits and replaced them with Chevrolet Suburbans boasting the same fuel economy as the World Trade Center. Now, once again, we find ourselves facing rising gas prices, and the question is: This time, are we going to learn from the past? Are we finally going to get serious about energy conservation?
Of course not! We have the brains of mealworms! So we need to get more oil somehow. As far as I can figure, there’s only one practical way to do this. That’s right: We need to clone more dinosaurs. We have the technology, as was shown in two blockbuster scientific movies, Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park Returns with Exactly the Same Plot. Once we have the dinosaurs, all we need is an asteroid. Or, if he is available, Marlon Brando.
If this plan makes sense to you, double your medication dosage, then write to your congressperson. Do it now! That way you’ll be busy when I siphon your tank.
(c) 2000, Dave Barry This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Electronic or print reproduction, adaptation, or distribution without permission is prohibited. Ordinary links to this column at http://www.miamiherald.com may be posted or distributed without written permission.