Consumers spend more on gas than on cars


Anyone chafing at the $50-plus it now takes to fill up a car will chuckle at this latest bit of data. According to the U.S. Bureau of Analysis, Americans spent more on gasoline than on vehicles and parts in May and June of this year, when gas prices were reaching new records.

That's the first time that's happened in 26 years. The last time gas exceeded cars and their parts as a percentage of spending was in January 1982. One analyst cited in news reports noted dryly that the trends of higher gas with lower car and truck sales had finally crossed.

U.S. refiners will likely pay an average of $111.11 a barrel for imported oil this year, compared with $67.02 a barrel last year, and $27.21 a barrel in 2002, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)

Meanwhile, the auto industry is looking at its worst year since 1993. As of August 1 when companies reported data, sales of cars and light trucks fell 29% at Chrysler LLC, 26% at GM, 15% at Ford, 12% at Toyota and 1.6% at Honda Motor Co.

Last time this happened I wasn't paying as much attention, being in high school and all. There was an energy crisis triggered by the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, which itself came on the heels of the 1973 Arab oil embargo. I remember the gas lines, but none of the belt-tightening. My mom put gas in my car and paid the household bills.

Ignorance is indeed bliss. Now that I'm in her shoes, I'll have to ask her how she actually managed the last time the economy was in this bad of shape. Something tells me it's going to get a lot worse.