Here is some philosophical food for thought while your car is stuck in golf-tournament traffic, burning $3.20 per gallon gas.
It takes water and electricity to make ice.
I know; that's deep. So your reaction is"Huh? What the heck does ice have to do with gas?"
But hear me out.
Most of the places these days where you buy gas also have a cooler stocked with bags of ice. Much of the retail ice around here comes from Reed Ice, a manufacturing plant over in Lincoln County.
The company used to be Reed Ice and Coal, and in its early years sold a lot more coal than it did ice. It adapted to changing times, and now mostly is known for wholesale distribution of bags of ice.
Times are changing again, however, and Reed and similar businesses are facing a growing threat. Not long ago, some of those stores that sell bags of ice " Pollard's Corner in Appling is one " hooked up with a company that makes an ice machine about the size of half a tractor-trailer.
For about a buck, the machine will dispense a giant-sized bag of ice or fill up your cooler. All the machine needs is water and electricity to make ice at the retail site.
Companies like Reed also use water and electricity to make ice. But then they have to bag the ice, use workers to load it on trucks, fill those trucks with fuel and pay drivers to deliver the bags to stores.
Now that fuel is flirting with $4 per gallon, it isn't hard to see that the business model of making ice at a central location and then trucking it to stores that already have water and electricity isn't economically sustainable.
The big ice machines that can be installed at individual stores will get cheaper, while fuel will become more expensive. The trends are inescapable.
Now, take all this information and apply it to gas stations. Gasoline is refined at a far-off location, loaded on trucks and hauled to all those places that sell ice. You drive to one of those locations, load up on gas and go your merry way.
But what if you could fuel up from home? For the most part, fuel is available now at stations every few blocks or so, or several miles apart out in the country. What if every single home and business had a fueling station?
We already do: It's electricity, one of those ingredients for ice. A friend and I were talking about cars the other day, and he pointed out that electric cars are nothing new. In fact, at one time in this country, electric and gasoline cars pretty much were in equal competition.
But several things happened. First, perhaps ironically, the electric starter was invented. That took away the potentially dangerous task of hand-cranking gasoline-powered cars. And then Henry Ford started mass-producing cheap, gasoline-powered vehicles, making them available to rural residents who at that time were far less likely to have access to electricity at their homes.
Fast-forward three-quarters of a century. Look at how far gasoline-powered cars have come since the 1930s when they started shoving electric cars out of the market.
Now imagine how much electric cars could have advanced and improved if we had continued producing and innovating them all these years, instead of mostly freezing their progress in time.
Perhaps those high gas prices will soon start to remind us that, unlike the 1930s, all of us now have a fuel pipeline running to our front door.
If Plant Vogtle is successful in building two new nuclear reactors, there will be even more of this near-limitless fuel available, and as a bonus we won't have to buy it from people who want to kill us.
The lesson here: The same stuff that makes ice perhaps can help cool our thirst for gasoline.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barry.paschal at newstimesonline.com.)
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