The Politics of Travel and Gasoline

The title may not be the best worded, but this is from my observations while traveling this summer. We drove from Texas to Florida and North Carolina and back, and later to Wisconsin by way of Nebraska and back. What I mention is based strictly on what I saw without really talking to anyone about it so there’s a lot of conjecture and supposition here.

Actually, the East Coast trip was relatively dull, politically. The main thing was pretty big swings in gasoline prices. Florida and Georgia had the highest gas prices and South Carolina had the lowest. Texas stays closer to the lowest than the highest and I live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area which has about the highest gas prices in the state.

The Northern trip was more interesting. Nebraska and Iowa sold both 10%-ethanol gasoline and no-ethanol gasoline for regular. This seemed ubiquitous so I’m assuming that this is because of state laws mandating the sale of no-ethanol gasoline. It was about twenty cents more expensive per gallon than the ethanol-enhanced version. To make things more confusing, they used the national pricing signs so the “premium” gasoline would be showing twenty cents cheaper than “regular” gasoline. The “premium” gasoline of course was the ethanol-enhanced regular. You would think that since these two states grew so much of the corn that ended up in the ethanol-enhanced version, they’d be happy to buy only that, but this doesn’t appear to be the case.

Illinois was the only state on my trip where I saw the E85 blend advertised, complete with little green signs on the Interstate exits that said “E85”. Come to think of it, I don’t remember seeing it even for sale outside of Illinois. I saw the price for it one place and it was $3.09, so definitely the cheapest gas I saw, not that my Jeep would run it.

Price-wise, Wisconsin was the highest, Oklahoma was the lowest and Illinois was the weirdest. If you include the E85, Illinois would qualify for both highest and lowest gas prices, and even without it, it fluctuated by forty cents a gallon within twenty miles or so. At its highest, $3.69 (which was higher than Wisconsin), you were in the Chicago area at an “oasis” on their turnpike. I went another 20 or so miles and filled up just off of I-55 for $3.29, so just a little ways away from Chicago and prices went from gouging to reasonable.

Speed limits were another point of interest, again mainly on the Northern trip. Most of the states ran at 75MPH on their interstates, or at least 70MPH. Two exceptions were Wisconsin and Illinois, which both ran a maximum of 65MPH. This is where their similarities ended. In Wisconsin, most drivers seemed to stay close to the speed limit both on the freeway and the max of 55MPH off the freeway. I’m not sure why as I didn’t see any higher police presence on the highways than I had in the other states. I understand Wisconsin used to be 70MPH on the interstates, so I’m not sure why they dropped the speed limit at all.

In Illinois, the freeways are 65MPH, but the tollway around Chicago is 55MPH. None of this made a difference. Within two miles of crossing from Wisconsin into Illinois, my 70MPH speed went from being slightly faster than average to way below average. It remained so on the “slower” tollway with even a state trooper blowing my doors off, and he wasn’t running lights or siren, just driving along with the other drivers. At 72MPH (17MPH over the speed limit), I was feeling a bit like a rock in rapids. Once I got away from Chicago, the speeds slowed down closer to the 65MPH speed limit (70-75MPH on average).

After driving through Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and Missouri, I can say that I’ve never ever seen SO MUCH CORN! At least 90% of what was being grown was corn, and most of the rest was soy. I did see some wheat, but not much, and I did see one field of cabbage in Wisconsin. That’s about it. No vegetables. This speaks to politics in a loud way, but I’m not exactly sure what the message is, though with most states selling 10% ethanol gasoline, I’m sure it takes a lot of corn to provide that 10% for the country. I’ll have to study this a bit more for more ramifications.

Those who live in these areas may be able to shed better light on the whys and wherefores of all of this. I’ll continue to scratch my head a bit and wonder.

4 thoughts on “The Politics of Travel and Gasoline”

  1. Dale, wish I could shed some light on this topic but I can’t. Thanks for sharing. I found it most interesting. I want to let you know that I was very happy to see you have started a blog. I will look forward to some interesting insights from your experiences in the future. I think you are a smart man and have a great sense of humor along with an adventurous spirit. Take care.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>