Letter: Why Pay Less: Send $2,000 per family out of state and do not fight high priced gasoline
November 27, 2015
The Aspen Times published my letter on the "Aspen Price Gouge" on Thanksgiving Day, hours after I wrote it. I argued then and argue now that Aspen consumers are paying $2,000 more per family of four for gasoline than they would if historical market relationships held. On Thanksgiving Day, the AAA reported the average national price of gasoline as $2.04. The average price in Aspen is $3.40. The gouge is around $1.20.
Aspen's high prices are almost certainly not caused by the owners of the local stations. Instead, they are forced to pay much higher prices for gasoline by suppliers owned by private, out-of-state corporations who have discovered that the town and the valley is inhabited by suckers.
I suggested the city find a way to open a station at the lumber yard purchased years ago by Mick Ireland's City Council for more than $18 million in 2007. Taxpayers might earn a return on their investment if a station there led to a $1 per gallon cut in gasoline. A reader mocked me saying Obamacare had worked so well. The reader has a point.
However, the government of the conservative town of Somerset, Kentucky, got tired of seeing its citizens treated like suckers. Like the operators of stations in Aspen, its gasoline retailers were being charged excessively high prices by suppliers, which they had to pass to consumers. The town built a station which sells only regular gasoline and diesel. Somerset now has some of the lowest-cost gasoline in its area. None of the competing stations have closed, because suppliers stopped gouging dealers.
The sale of gasoline is not a competitive business. In some areas, such as Grand Junction, there are enough suppliers and enough marketers to assure consumers a reasonable price. (The price there today is $1.80 as compared with $3.83 at the Main Street Shell.) Other areas, such as Aspen and the valley, are subject to the greedy action of monopolistic suppliers.
Aspen and valley consumers are paying $15 million more per year than they should for gasoline. This is money that goes out of the valley and out of the state. It is money you could no doubt use. It is money that would be spent at local businesses. The incremental revenue could generate more jobs. It could add to the growth of the entire valley.
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However, some would apparently rather continue to be suckers. It really does not matter to me. I manage to buy in Glenwood Springs or at Costco. For those living upvalley, though, making $50,000 or $60,000 per year, this should matter.
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