Saturday, December 15, 2007

Below Cost

I stood in line at the post office yesterday for about 25 minutes. It was the kind of line that usually evokes nervous fits and swearing. This line was very calm, though -- the woman holding it up was sending 13 Christmas boxes to her children in Iraq. It's always a gift when a room full of people become kind to each other...

How does a box get from Arlington Massachusetts to Iraq? Planes trains and automobiles... and a lot of gasoline -- a lot of it diesel fuel.

Today I learned that in India, refineries are selling diesel fuel below cost. For me, this story originated in a blog in the Wall Street Journal, which lead to a blog on Bloomberg and a story in the LA Times.

Below cost.

Meanwhile, back in the US, diesel prices reached an all time high last month. All Time. According to the LA Times, The average U.S. price for a gallon of diesel reached $3.42 last Monday, nearly 80 cents higher than a year earlier, according to the Energy Department's weekly survey of filling stations. At a Shell station in Santa Ana, diesel was selling for $4.13 a gallon.

Diesel fuels almost all shipping, all trucking and all farm equipment in this country. This means prices are about to go up -- sharply -- in all areas of the consumer economy as soon as the increase in fuel prices trickle down. But as much as prices are going up, the situation in India has to mean they are still at a false low.

Below cost.

Why does anyone take less than they need in exchange for what they have to offer? In India, the low price of gas is balancing out an inflated worth of the rupee -- so that the strength of the economy outweighs the the refinery losses.

It reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend in Harvard Square a few days ago... Personally, we take less than what we need because of what we find attractive. We are fueled by desire and greed ... maybe the idealism to believe that with the strength we gain now we can fix it all in the near future. We bank on the riches of the future to make up for the deficits of now.

But the only ways for a truly strong now -- in the economy in India or the friendships and intimacies of daily life -- are based on truth of commodity, exchange and value.

1 comment:

Jennifer S. Flescher said...

my dear old friend Raina writes from India:

on the price of diesel in india,however, it is not as you say;
oil remains a sector that is still regulated to an occasional extent for two reasons:
it is crucial to security interests, and ,two, its pricing affects most consumer goods needed by india's impoverished peoples; of some 1.2 billion indians, some 700 millions still subsist on under 50 cents a day!