Writing On The Wall: North America Transitioning to Emerging Market Status

Kitchen Stripes

Kitchen Stripe, photo courtesy Little Green Paint Company, via Flickr

America’s middle class will not be saved by low oil prices brought about by Bakken Shale and Alberta Tar Sands Oil booms.  Nor by the low price of natural gas.  I’ve some anecdotes to illustrate why.

Let’s begin with latex or ’emulsion’ paint, a base raw material for which is commonly propene.  Propene in turn is a byproduct of  oil refining and natural gas processing.

Cost perspective.
What are the main differences between cheap  and expensive interior wall paints? The cheap stuff has more water and a latex emulsion of lower quality – bigger gobs of acrylate latex suspended – so less coverage.  You will almost certainly need to by more of the cheap stuff.

Gallon of paint for a tank of gas.
When last I painted the family room, a gallon of white tint base paint was twelve to twenty bucks.  I finished that project for under US$50.  Now it is Ralf Lauren and Martha Stewart paint, sometimes for around $54/gallon — and on the low-end, far from the branded aisle,  $28/gal or even less on sale in 5-gallon pail.

The Daily Fuel Gage pegs the November 14, 2013 average USA gasoline price at $3.480.  Hold that thought while we get back to painting.

Assume each room to be painted calls for roughly a gallon of primer and two gallons of cheap tint base paint. Add the cost of towels, taxes, tape, brushes, rollers, and miscellaneous, and round it off to $90/room – on the cheap.  That’s enough money to fuel a suburban SUV driver for a week or two, and this in the height of two petroleum booms reaching peak output(s).  (City dwellers who mix and match transport modes might stretch that $90-worth of fuel to last a month.)

For most of us, the recession is not over. Wages are outpaced by cost of living increases, so I am betting that a significant portion of residential walls are looking worse for the wear and will stay that way.  Note: I would have posted coating manufacturing data to back this statement up but guess what?  The Budget Sequester has ended the once-appropriate US Census quarterly report.

Ford Motor Ka for the 99%.
As discussed at length in  Motor Trend and WSJ, the Ford Motor Company reportedly is ready to debut in Brazil, a small light efficient low-priced version of the “Ka” car – for the ’emerging markets’ type consumer.  I think that’s us, Henry.

Here’s the Wall Street Journal‘s money line on the Brazilian Ka:

“Ford is unveiling in Brazil on Wednesday a prototype for a new tiny subcompact car called the Ka that aims to tackle the entry-level buyer in countries where being middle class means you can just afford a car that costs about $10,000, or a third the average price of a vehicle sold in the U.S.”

Bring it home so we’ll have enough left to paint the kitchen walls. Good for the climate as well.


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