Letter: The Aspen gasoline gouge

Gasoline prices have dropped to their lowest levels in years. According to data released today by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the last time gasoline prices were this low relative to the prices of other goods was in July 2003. The national price of regular gasoline then was $1.55 per gallon. Today the national price of gasoline is a little higher, according to AAA, $1.75 per gallon. The difference reflects the effects of inflation.

Gasoline prices were a little lower in Colorado 13 years ago, around $1.45 per gallon. Of course, gasoline prices were a little higher in Aspen in 2003, probably near $1.90 per gallon.

Today the situation is very different. Consumers in Denver are paying $1.63 per gallon, according to AAA. The price is a little higher at the Costco in Gypsum ($1.65 per gallon), and consumers in Vail are paying $2.04 per gallon. Consumers in Glenwood are paying $185 a gallon, according to AAA, but can obtain gasoline for $1.67 at the low-priced Sinclair station. Gasoline is a bargain in most of Colorado, at least compared with prices from 2011 to 2014.

Aspen, of course, is different. The best price today is $2.44 at the Aspen Business Center, according to Gas Buddy. Prices are 40 cents a gallon higher in town. Those buying gasoline in Aspen are being gouged.

It was not always this way. Years ago, gasoline supplies were managed by the large companies whose names adorn the stations: Conoco, Shell, Phillips, Texaco and Amoco. The managers of the companies had a conscience. They liked high prices but did not seek to be labeled gougers. Were they still in charge today, prices in Aspen would average $2.05 per gallon, the same as in Vail.

The difference is the gouge. It costs the average family of four around $1,000 per year.

Do not look for the gouge to end. The small-time distributors that supply the valley today are driven solely by greed. One needs to look to other authorities to address the problem — or just pay up. I will explain more Wednesday at the Aspen Business Luncheon. Aspen does have alternatives but needs to take the initiative. I doubt it will as long as its mayor, whom I call Don Quixote, continues to ignore the tax imposed on his constituents by the gougers while seeking to solve the problem of global warming entirely on his own.

Philip Verleger