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Sunday, Oct 07 2012 11:00 PM

HITS & MISSES: Here's to hoping gas prices fall back to earth

By The Bakersfield Californian

MISS: A recent spike in gas prices has walloped consumers in recent days, driving prices above the $5 mark in some parts of the state.

In one night last week, prices jumped by 30 cents a gallon. Some station owners weren't buying fuel out of fear that it wouldn't sell at such a high price. At one Calabasas station, where gas was going for $5.69 a gallon, the owners hung a sign saying, "We are sorry, it's not our fault."

This time, we can't pin it on world events. This problem is homegrown, caused by disruptions at California refineries that supply most of the state's gasoline, which must adhere to cleaner standards than in other states. Let's hope these prices are just a temporary blip and not the new norm.

HIT: Injured soldier improving

The condition of Samuel Van Kopp, the Bakersfield High graduate and Army first lieutenant critically injured in Afghanistan, improved last week. Van Kopp came out of an induced coma, was speaking in short sentences to family and is no longer on a ventilator after shrapnel lodged in his brain when a suicide bomber in Afghanistan detonated an explosive vest near his patrol on Sept. 26. Van Kopp was a 2006 honors graduate of Bakersfield High School and went on to the United States Military Academy at West Point. He is being treated at the Army's Walter Reed hospital.

MISS: The threat of drought

The summer heat is over but the threat of drought still lingers. The Sacramento Bee reported last week there is virtually no rain in the most recent long-term weather forecast. That's sure to worsen conditions in the two-thirds of the state that's already experiencing moderate drought conditions. Even though most of the year has been dry, California has avoided a drought declaration because of ample water supplies, thanks to a wet winter in early 2011. But that could soon change as supplies diminish and replenishment remains out of sight.

MISS: Another local shop closes up

Tangerine, an upscale clothing boutique at the Marketplace, is the latest local retailer to shut down in the wake of the Great Recession. It is the second shop to go out of the business at the southwest shopping center in the past month; Olcotts, known for high-end housewares and wedding gifts, also recently closed its doors. The clothing boutique was somewhat of a rarity in that its inventory was almost all clothing made in America and designed by American designers. Open nearly a decade, Tangerine's owners said consumers today seems to value owning more pieces of lower-priced, imported clothing over fewer classic, well-made and more costly pieces. Tangerine could have compromised long ago and stocked cheaper, foreign-made clothes but instead stuck with what it believed in. Our hats are off to the owners for their effort.

HIT: Unemployment below 8 percent

A new jobs report Friday pegged unemployment at 7.8 percent, the lowest level since the beginning of 2009. Politics aside, this is another bit of good news for the nation's economy. Consumers are feeling more confident, home prices are ticking up and the ranks of the unemployed are going down. Let's hope the good news keeps rolling in.

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