Letter: Gasoline prices and the value of your property

I have written several columns and a number of letters on the artificially high prices of gasoline in the Roaring Fork Valley. My argument is that prices have been elevated relative to the prices of gasoline in Denver ever since the principal supplier of gasoline in the valley, Western States Petroleum, was acquired by Pilot, a privately owned Tennessee firm that owns, among other things, truck stops. The family that owns Pilot also owns the Cleveland Browns.

Recently there have been two new developments in the gasoline marketing area. First, residents in northern Vermont filed a class action against petroleum retailers in the area for artificially high gasoline prices. The suit follows a Federal Trade Commission report prepared for Sen. Bernie Sanders that found that prices in the area were 10 cents a gallon higher than would have been predicted by the agency’s models. I am certain the FTC would reach a similar conclusion were it to examine the gasoline market in the valley. However, no one seems to care.

The second development in gasoline marketing offers a reason to care. Two academics have produced a study that shows that higher gasoline prices lower the value of houses. Using 10 years of data for Virginia and Florida, the academics found that a $1-per-gallon decline in prices shortens the time to sell a house by 25 days. In addition, the study concluded that a $1-per-gallon decline in prices increases the selling price of a house by 2.4 percent.

I think the results make sense, although I cannot vouch for the quality of the study because I have not yet obtained the full document. The results suggest that artificially high prices inflicted on the valley and parts of the Western Slope by the Tennessee oil barons are having a greater financial impact on those living in the valley than we originally thought. It is not just the cost of gasoline — it’s the value of your home. The lower housing prices inflicted on us by the Tennessee oil barons also cut the income of the valley’s many real estate agents.

Maybe we should not be so passive. Sanders looked after his constituents. Do we have a representative who might do the same for us? There is a lot of money on the table that seems to be going to Tennessee.

Philip Verleger