Issues in time-travel gasoline sales

In this post, Asimovian says she would like to use a time machine, go back to when gas was selling for 95 cents, buy loads of it and go back to the present to sell it for $1.25, baffling the world when she was able to buy a profit.

My question is this: What would happen, legally and socially, if she actually did? If no-one could find anyone who’d admit to selling gas to Asimovian and Asimovian refused to say where she got the gas, what would the result be? She’s selling loads of it at $1.25 but no-one knows where it came from.

There’s no way this can be approached factually … but perhaps some common sense and ol’ fashioned B.S. can be applied here:

– Asimovian’s books would be audited very heavily – perhaps even illegally. There’d be so many agents sniffing around here affairs that she’s have to step over them to use the bathroom.

– More ominously, I’m betting her life would be in danger. Some shadowy Powers That Be would threaten her life to divulge the source of her gasoline so that they, themselves could sell the cheap stuff at or near current market rates. And if Asimovian refused to play ball … :frowning: … it would get ugly quick.

– However, if the time travel mechanism were keen and handy enough so that she could more or less teleport through time at a moment’s notice, perhaps much of the above nastiness could be avoided. Still, her employees and customers might be at risk of sabotage or something in that league.

How is she going to deal with the excise and income taxes? Even if the government is willing to believe that the gasoline magically appears at her gasoline terminal, they are going to want their taxes.

As I understand it, average at-the-pump taxes per gallon in the U.S. in 2002 were 42¢, while the 1998 average was a consistent 40.9¢. When she sells the gas for a modern $1.25, if she plans to pay any taxes at all so she at least looks legit, her net is about 80¢, after she pays the ~45¢, for a net loss of 15¢/gallon.

And even if she goes completely rogue and pays no taxes at all… well, there are better commodities to deal with, starting with lottery tickets.

The feds of various stripes would be on your case shortly.

Why bother with tankers? As long as we are dealing in fantasy:

Set up a time line pipe line direct into the underground storage tanks?

Sure, but what precisely is the charge, provided that Asimovian is the only time-traveller and has kept the existence of the technology a secret?

If you are not already in the wholesale gas business, you have dozens of permits you have failed to get, and another dozen taxes you cannot prove you have paid. (Federal, state, and perhaps local.)

And why not go back to 1920, and buy aviation gas (Unleaded) for $0.15 a gallon?

Buy with just what money? You can’t use your current money in the past, and getting reliably real old money is quite expensive. Especially in large amounts.

Not to mention that time travel doesn’t exist.


Where would she get enough dollars of that vintage to buy the gas, she wouldn’t be able to pay by check, as the account would not have existed yet. She would have to screen her dollars very carefully as not to let a future bill loose in the past, she might be jailled for counterfeiting in the past if she was caught with a future bill.

As for profiting at $1.25 per gallon, I don’t know why she wouldn’t make a profit, as the actual cost of pumping and refining is actually very low.

Ominously … I’d say no specific charge would be sought. The Powers That Be would just do what they felt they needed to, Constitution be damned.

Yes, but do you think that anyone actually checks the year on a dollar bill when examining its veracity?

Actually, this is probably a good prove that time travel is impossible.

You see, multiple people from (pick a future year) – when gasoline is a rare commodity sold at $10/ml – will have used the by then invented time travel device to come back to each year since they started cracking crude to buy off all the really cheap gas. Including today’s $3 a gallon gas – cheap being relative.
Since we had and still have gas for sale, apparently time travel never gets invented.

Er. That ‘prove’ should have been ‘proof.’

To avoid this being just a correction post…

Wouldn’t it make more sense to transport commodities the other way? How much do you suppose you could sell a $5 timex watch for? A pocket calculator?

Even just selling ordinary printed books would do. Even if the price per book was something ridiculous. Just insist on being paid in coins. :wink:

And use the less than perfect coins to buy postage stamps.
Who cares what today’s gas costs when you’ve sold a few really rare postage stamps and coins??

The problem with that is that the objects wouldn’t have aged; thus, if tested, the buyer would conclude that your commodities were counterfeit.

Also, this effect not being observed may instead mean that a) the time travelers aren’t being greedy (by nature or by law), or b) time travel is strictly regulated, and this sort of thing is prohibited.

It doesn’t prove that time travel is impossible, nor that it is possible, just that we haven’t seen and correctly identified any signs of it.

The book has two illustrations.
One illustration has the star behind the sun. The light is bent around the sun not towards it.
The other illustration is a graph of the 1922 Australian eclipse data. All stars have an observed position away from the sun from their actual position.

Sorry, I can’t find an illustration on the 'net.

Not that the gas guy will discover the future bills, but the bank will, or someone will find these along the way, and could be tracked back to the gas station.

See! Light was bent away from another thread!

Much better to buy some gold, go back, by up land in, say California, then come back a decade or so in the past and sell it, invest the money in stocks you know will be big, them come back to our time and retire. Simple really.

Buying gas would be about the last thing I can think of that would be worth my while. Even buying crude wouldn’t be worth my while…but gas would be pretty much worthless in large quantities as the refining process has changed quite a bit in the last few decades (in addition to the point already brought up about how the price of gas, modified for inflation is actually about as cheap today as it was way back when).

Hell, if I had a time machine I can think of a hell of a lot better get rich quick schemes. :slight_smile:


:smack: Ignore that. Seems I’m the one who posted in the wrong thread.

If she bought enough gas in the past, would she not be depleting the past supply, driving prices up (prematurely) due to a shortage?

Only from where you are sitting. From where we are sitting most of us have posted through a bizarre fiber optic time portal, which allowed our posts to land in your thread.

Always operate under the belief that you are in the right. :smiley:

OP: She’d never get away with it for more than 6 months, at which point the various agencies that regulate and measure the gas pumps and storage tanks would arrive, and become mighty curious.