June 17, 2008

Gas Prices, The Economy and Trooping

In August of 2007, two major lenders in the American Subprime mortgage industry, American Home Mortgage and Countrywide Financial filed for bankruptcy or came close to doing so. This helped trigger a ripple effect that eventually led to the current economic recession in the United States. This ripple effect, augmented by rising fuel prices, has caused monetary problems throughout the world and the US. The American dollar has dropped, employment and domestic sales has dropped while the cost of oil breaks records almost everyday, contributing to a rise in global food prices.

This has several discrete effects on the activities of the members of the 501st Legion. With members in every state around the US and in numerous countries, the combined rising prices and fuel and goods is beginning to influence the activities of the members within the Legion.

The primary effect that this is having is in the ability of the members abilities to travel to and from events. Troopers have reported fuel prices anywhere from four to five dollars a gallon, which in some cases leads to an increased cost when it comes to attending events.

Some garrisons are harder hit than others. Some have members concentrated in a smaller area, such as the Neon City Garrison of Nevada, or the New England Garrison, which is mainly concentrated around Boston. Other garrisons, such as Excelsior and some of the California garrisons, cover a lot more ground, with troopers spread out much more. This in turn makes it much harder for members to make it out to events.

Carpooling seems to be the most common way in which people get to and from events. Numerous people have stated that they will often try and get several troopers together in each vehicle, which helps cut down on gas prices per person traveling, and has the added effect of getting cars off the road, which then in turn leads to fewer emissions, if one looks at all the benefits of this. Others limit which events they are attending. Several have said that they won't attend an event that is more than a couple of hours away from where they live, and pick and choose events more carefully.

Another major effect that the rising prices of petroleum is increases in prices for ABS and other types of plastic. According to at least one armor maker, because the price of plastic is rooted in the price of crude oil, the prices of raw materials has gone up, which will most likely cause this already fairly expensive hobby to get a little more expensive.

Some people have coped by selling off their sets. A number of sets have come across the trading section on the legion forums prefaced by: 'I really hate to do this, but...' followed by the sale of a suit in order for one of our members to focus on more important things, such as the regular onslaught of bills and food. It is an unfortunate thing to see happen. I for one had to contemplate selling off my scout armor at one point (I didn't, for which I'm very glad), and I cannot imagine selling my TK armor for any price. It's far too special for me, and I think this underscores the problems that some people are having during these difficult times.

I can't say that I've been wholly effected as badly by the economic crisis. Vermont has been largely spared in the housing market, and I feel that I have a job that is both secure and leaves me with enough time and money to continue this hobby. Since I've gotten back into the swing of things, I've attended a number of events that have been three to four hours away from where I am, and I'm planning on doing it several more times this summer. Currently, my expenses are fairly low, and this helps keep me active and able to attend events.

Because of my location, I have found it difficult to arrange events up here in Vermont. Many members in my garrison aren't willing or able to drive the distance up, and with prices the way they are, I can hardly blame them - it can cost around $60-$70 in my car to get to and from some of these events. This has largely influenced me to recruit more in the state, which is slowly happening, to help build up a good local base, and to work more closely with the Canadian Garrison, which is much closer to us than most of our members.

A positive note is that while the fuel prices have mainly effected troopers abilities to get to and from various events, translating into lower attendance at various events, there hasn't been any firm indication that donations at and for events has gone down at all because of current events. While it certainly makes people think twice about driving to and from events more, its a positive sign that what we do is still valued and needed.

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