Road tripping to be easier this summer with lower gas prices

Fill your tank, cut down a redwood and kick a polar bear in the ‘nads … gas is likely to stay cheap this summer! So, let the environment be damned, load up the Hummer and take the longest road trip of your life.

The Energy Information Administration has great news for motorists: gas is expected to hang around an average of $2.23 a gallon this summer (more if you live in New York or California, I imagine). Peak driving season – late in the summer – could see a rise to more than $2.30, but it’s still a far cry from last summer’s insanity … when the average gallon would set you back $3.81.

What’s behind this embarrassment of fossil fuel riches? A barrel of crude is likely to cost about a third of what it did last summer ($53 versus $147), and U.S. crude oil production is supposed to come back up – by 440,000 barrels a day.

But, it pays to have a backup plan. Howard Gruenspecht, acting administrator of the EIA, concedes that an early broader economic recovery could lead to more pain at the pump, though you’d probably be able to afford it.

An EIA spokesman was on hand to confirm, “We’re not in the crystal ball business.” If they were, they probably wouldn’t be talking about fuel prices anyway.

Hedge your gasoline purchases with MyGallons

I was JUST thinking about this on the ride in this morning when I passed the Shell station at the corner of Platt and Ellsworth when I saw regular fuel at $4.25 a gallon: “Man, I wish I could buy gas at today’s price tomorrow”.

That’s basically what oil futures are: speculators decide that they think the price of oil is going to rise, invest in futures and watch their money go through the roof. More people make money, more speculate and the price goes up. It’s the phenomenon that many economists think is leading the surge in oil prices today, beating out real market supply and demand economics and essentially crushing our transportation infrastructure.

The theory is identical to what Southwest Airlines did. Back when oil was at believable prices, that airline decided to hedge their oil purchases and lock in prices at the past rate of $51/barrel. Now that fuel is at over $140, they’re making a killing over other airlines.

Now, with gasoline at $4.25 a gallon, you can purchase as many gallons as you want at that price with and watch the market fluctuate independent of your fuel consumption. If gas keeps surging to $5.00 a gallon? You’ve just saved a bunch of money. If it drops to $2.50 again? You’re out.

Based on how many gallons you buy, the service sends you a “debit” card that lets you purchase as much fuel (per gallon, not dollar) as you have stored up.

The crux of your investment is on where you think the price of the oil is going to head. If you, like many others, think that the price will keep going up, now might be a good time to buy your MyGallons card before your summer road trip.

Subscription to the MyGallons service ranges from $30-$40 per year, but if gas keeps going up that will be a drop in the bucket compared to what you could save.

Turkmenistan’s “Door to Hell”

We’ve previously reported here at Gadling on the intriguing, surreal and downright bizarre tourist attractions of the Central Asian nation of Turkmenistan. Now today comes further “fuel” for the country’s already odd reputation. Website English Russia is reporting on what local residents have dubbed the “Door to Hell” – a cavernous, flaming pit outside the small town of Darvaza which has been continuously burning for more than 35 years.

While Biblical alarmists might point to the “Door of Hell” as yet another sign of a coming apocalypse, the phenomenon apparently has a scientific explanation. According local residents, geologists were digging in the area for gas deposits and stumbled upon a huge underground cavern. The geologists apparently concluded the cavern was filled with poisonous gas, and decided (as any sane rational scientist might do) that they should light the cavern on fire to burn off the excess. The hole has been burning for more than 35 years since. Though there’s some debate on English Russia about whether this flaming pit is actually located in Uzbekistan, some further investigation confirms it is indeed in Turkmenistan.

Perhaps the “Door to Hell” won’t help put Turkmenistan back on your list of 1,000 Places to Visit Before You Die, but if you’re a Satanist, energy company executive or just plain curious, maybe it’s worth the long trek out to Central Asia.

Get Google directions at the gas pump

For those of us who are prone to getting lost (come on, admit it…) and do not have a handy GPS unit stuck to our windshield, Google has announced a partnership with gas stations across the United States to offer the ability to search Google Maps from the gas pump.

“The pumps, made by Gilbarco Veeder-Root, include an Internet connection and will display Google’s mapping service in color on a small screen. Motorists will be able to scroll through several categories to find local landmarks, hotels, restaurants and hospitals selected by the gas station’s owner.”

The pumps will also have the ability to print out directions, all for free. The only downside, it seems, is that the pump lacks a way of typing in a specific destination, which makes it tough to find where you’re going unless it happens to be a destination preselected by the gas station. Even so, cool.
Via Engadget

The Price of Gas Around the World

The next time you pull into the station for a fill-up, keep this in mind before you curse the prices: People elsewhere have it a lot worse than we do in America (and we tend to gripe about it the most, it seems!). Take Asia for instance — Hong Kong averages a whopping $6.30 per gallon, with Seoul, South Korea, not too far behind. Europe also pays well above what we do in America. London, Berlin, Oslo, and Paris are all well above $6 a gallon. On the low end of the spectrum, places in the Middle East like Kuwait City and Tehran, Iran, pay under 79 cents for their gas. Big surprise there!

The lowest, however, is reserved for Caracas, Venezuela. 17 cents per gallon! [via]