Now that the holiday season has come to an end and most people have gone back to work or school, there seems to be plenty of opportunity to return to more mundane ways of passing the time. You know, things you can do without having to stick your nose outdoors where the windchill is at or below zero. And that’s today – tomorrow it will be much worse (-20 F). I seem to have ample time to read the paper, or a book, or play on the computer or even watch TV (it seems that daytime TV is still a “vast wasteland”, though). Going out to make photographs just isn’t going to happen in the near future. My Olympus EM-1 is supposed to be able to work in subzero conditions, but my tolerances don’t go nearly that low.
Now, one thing you have to remember about me is that I’m an ex-statistician. I made my living playing with numbers. No, not like an accountant. That stuff is monumentally boring. What statisticians do (or what they’re supposed to do) is look at various types of measurements, measurements hopefully made in a controlled environment, and figure out what they mean. In short, can I predict what’s going to happen next based on what I’ve already observed. If I don’t like that predicted outcome, can I use the same numbers (or model) to figure out how to produce a more favorable, alternative result. For me, that was a lot of fun. So even in retirement I still find myself fascinated by numbers. And, as always, I’d really like to understand where they came from and what they mean.
Which brings me to the current state of gasoline prices in general and, more specifically, the current price of gasoline in good old Webster, NY. Like most people, I’ve been amazed at how quickly prices have fallen in recent weeks. As of yesterday, the price of a barrel of crude oil had dropped to about $50.00 and the price of a gallon of regular gas was $2.194. That, of course, is the so-called “national average”. It’s really not an “average”, but that’s another story so we’ll let it go. Of far more interest is the variability (another thing that statisticians are very much interested in) of the cost of a gallon of gas across the country.
The two states with the highest prices for a gallon of gas are Hawaii ($3.487) and Alaska ($2.999). If we exclude those 2 states – they are, after all, special cases – we discover that New York has the highest “average” price ($2.715) in the continental United States. Even California is lower ($2.652).
But here comes the interesting part: the metropolitan Rochester area, which includes Webster, has the highest cost for a gallon of gas in NY State ($2.796). The Buffalo area is nearly identical ($2.795), with New York City a little lower ($2.753) and Syracuse lower still ($2.563).
As a point of reference, the states with the lowest gas prices are Missouri ($1.843) and Ohio ($1.881). I used to live in Missouri, by the way. Apparently I should have stayed there. Everything was cheaper. And the people are, for the most part, friendlier. But that’s another story, too.
So what about my current hometown of Webster? How much are we paying here? In a word, more. In a very unofficial ride around town I came up with a local average of $2.84 per gallon. And in my experience that’s not an unusual result. It’s always about a nickel more in Webster than it is in other nearby local municipalities. So what are we getting for our extra nickel? From what I can see, not much. What we call Main Street is literally disintegrating. By Spring they’ll have to start building bridges across some of the potholes. Who’s getting the additional money? I have no idea. But it ain’t showing up in any infrastructure improvements.
So if the price of gas in Webster is higher than the rest of the Rochester area, and if the Rochester area is higher than the rest of New York, and if New York is higher than any other state (aside from Alaska and Hawaii), does that mean that Webster has the highest gas prices in the lower 48? Honestly, I don’t know. But we gotta be close…….
I guess there’s only one reasonable conclusion: Gasoline must be worth more in the place “Where Life is Worth Living”.