Pain at the gas pump? Time to get mad

For some folks, a budget lack of $3 means more than, “Ugh, no grande raspberry latte with low-fat milk for me today.” A spike in gasoline prices puts them in a real bind.

Nico De La Puente, 48, says she can no longer afford healthy treats to give her seven grandchildren while they do their homework.

“I babysit my grandchildren a lot after school,” she says. “And I always would like to have little snacks for them. … But with the price of gas, the snacks are gone. And I have to debate: If I buy a gallon of milk, I don’t have the gas to drive them home.”

Channel 4 tapes De La Puente’s remarks. Behind the grandmother is a chart that says the average Nevada household paid $479 extra on fuel this year. Nevada families with teenagers paid an extra $674, according to the chart, which cites the AAA and the Energy Information Administration.

The John Kerry campaigners who gather on a Reno sidewalk Friday say, yeah, it’s true Bush cut taxes and sent us all checks last year. But 46 percent of Nevada families received less than $100 in tax relief. We’ve paid quadruple that in rising fuel costs.

Things will get worse for families.

Not for energy companies and stockholders. They’re raking in profits.

Feeling angry yet?

They aren’t nearly pissed-off enough, these protesters with 5-gallon gasoline containers that read: “Can Bush.”

I’d hoped for raw fury.

At a Reno gas station on Arlington and Liberty streets, Sean Smith, 33, the communications director for John Kerry’s Nevada campaign, greets me warmly.

“I hope you have a camera in there,” he says, nodding at my bag.

“I’m a columnist,” I explain.

When the Kerry campaign called, Smith left San Diego for southern Nevada. He comes to Reno once a month.

“The stakes are so high, how could you not want to live in Las Vegas for the summer?” he says.

A similar gas protest was held in Las Vegas a couple days earlier. It coincided with Kerry’s Seattle speech, in which he condemned Bush’s foreign policy as the impetus behind rising gas prices.

In Vegas, all the TV stations and newspapers showed up.

In Reno, there’s posing with gas cans as a Washoe County Democrat takes snapshots. A Reno Gazette-Journal reporter might be coming, I’m told.

“The TVs are like, ‘Yawn,’” someone says.

Gas companies aren’t hurting. Last week, Chevron-Texaco was on the “buy” list for stock traders—CVX, if you’re in the mood—having announced record-breaking first quarter profits for 2004. Its $2.6 billion income was up $700 million from last year.

Want to hear a fun conspiracy theory? Fuel companies are, with the help of you-know-who, holding us hostage.

What do they want?

Bush does have a plan to reduce fuel prices. It’s a bifurcated tail of a wish list that resonates with the oil companies that donate heavily to the campaign.

First, open up federal lands in the United States for more drilling and exploration. Second, get rid of pesky environmental restrictions on gas and oil refineries.

Bush has already loosened the restrictions of the Clean Air Act. It’s safe to say that some powermongers want Bush to wave his magic wand and make disappear the rules that barely protect our air, water and land.

As long as we have juice for our SUVies, do we really care?

A Channel 4 van arrives. Channel 8 shows up a bit later.

“Start yelling,” commands KRNV’s morning news anchor Bill Frankmore, looking dapper in a suit and tie. Perhaps he’d enjoy a nice round of booing or some rowdy chants. I know I would.

Frankmore says: “We’re ready. Start protesting.”