Want to vent about gasoline prices? Head to Rifle | AspenTimes.com

Want to vent about gasoline prices? Head to Rifle

Mike McKibbin
Rifle correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

RIFLE, Colo. ” Gasoline prices aren’t as high as they were last summer in western Colorado, when prices skyrocketed to more than $5 a gallon in Aspen and topped $4 a gallon in Rifle, spurring grumbling about unfair and, possibly, illegal pricing.

As prices peaked, motorists in Rifle complained about paying more for gas than they would in Grand Junction to the west, or even in nearby Silt.

The price a the pump has since eased, but state Sen. Al White, R-Hayden, and representatives from the Colorado attorney general’s office will seek input on the issue from residents and businesses on Saturday, Feb. 28 at 2 p.m. in Colorado Mountain College’s West Garfield Campus auditorium in Rifle.

White represents Senate District 8 in western Colorado, which includes parts of Eagle, Garfield, Jackson, Moffat, Rio Blanco and Routt counties. In the Roaring Fork Valley, the district encompasses El Jebel and some of Basalt, as well as Carbondale and Glenwood Springs. Rifle is also in the district.

White said he continues to receive e-mails and letters from constituents complaining about the disparity in prices. Officials with the Colorado Petroleum Retailers Association and gas suppliers, such as Kirk Swallow of Swallow Oil of Rifle, will be at Saturday’s meeting, as well.

“I asked them to all attend so they could hear the concerns,” White said. “I don’t expect too many people will be satisfied with what they hear, but at least they might get some answers to their questions.”

White said he wasn’t sure that any legislation to address the situation would result from the discussion.

Swallow said he planned to give a Powerpoint presentation on the gas supply and pricing process.

“I was just in Arizona and Utah and their gas prices are as high or higher than ours,” he said.

Swallow said grocery and convenience stores can sell gas at lower prices because their food sales more than offset the difference.

“So you have these 1,000-pound gorillas,” he said. “I sell about $30,000 in food at our convenience stores each week. I have to make a profit to survive and I’m not making any more profit than I was six or 12 years ago.”

Swallow said credit card companies charge 4 percent each time a customer buys their gas with plastic. About 80 percent of all gas sales are charged to credit or debit cards, he added. When gas was $4 a gallon, that was 16 cents on each gallon. Now, at around $2 a gallon, Swallow said he’s still paying the 4 percent.

“So VISA is taking about a quarter to a third of my money and I’m the bad guy,” he said.

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