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Gas monopoly

Dear Editor:

We certainly like to hike and use our bikes for exercise and access to activities; however, living in Aspen means using our cars, as well – soccer games in Carbondale or Eagle, shopping in Glenwood Springs and commuting to work. Therefore, gasoline prices greatly impact our pocketbook just like everyone’s across the country. Nationally, the oil companies offer many reasons why they are making billions in profits from high gas prices, but what about the retail price of gas in Aspen? On May 12, the average price for regular gas in Colorado was $3.78; however, the Aspen Conoco charged $4.80 – $5 for premium – $1 a gallon more than the state average!

Like many others in our community, we ask ourselves, Why is gas so expensive in Aspen? This question was answered by Aspen Daily News guest columnist Philip K. Verleger, a valley resident and national expert on oil. He asserted, in two columns published Nov. 19 and Dec. 19, that there is “no reason” gas should be so expensive in Aspen.



He believes our gas stations are acting in a “monopolistic” way. The reason, given to the community over the years, has been that the cost of bringing tanker trucks up Highway 82 adds to the fuel price; however, Verleger pointed out that “gas in Leadville is cheaper then Aspen.” Verleger asserted that local gas stations are “picking your pocket … sending price-sensitive tourists to other destinations.” He believes “every hotel in Aspen … might book 200 … additional rooms … every restaurant seat 200 more tables … every business would gain.” Certainly every resident would benefit from lower local gas prices.

So what is going on? Are we being “hosed” by the Aspen gas stations? Our understanding is that both Aspen gas stations are owned by the same company, ALH Holdings LLC. If that’s true, is this not a monopoly? The Sherman Act was designed “to protect the consumers by preventing arrangements designed … to advance the cost of goods to the consumer.”



Perhaps the Aspen City Council could ask ALH Holdings, also the owner of the popular Peach’s coffee shop, to explain to the community why gas prices in Aspen are so high. Maybe we are missing something that explains or justifies the price for gas at their stations.

The number of special events in Aspen this summer is incredible, but people coming to our town or those living and working here should not be overcharged for gas. We join Verleger in urging our politicians to take up this important issue by looking at the legal implications and considering establishing a local “cooperative gas station” that would greatly benefit the community and our visitors.

Check out Verleger’s full columns on the price of gas in our valley in the Aspen Daily News archives, and let our politicians know how you feel about being “hosed” at the pump!

John Wilcox

Aspen


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