In his study of local gasoline prices ("Gasoline Kings," July 5), Ryan Burns skipped lightly over the main answer to his lead question, "Why the heck are Humboldt County's fuel prices so high?" That answer is that Chevron has a near monopoly on the fuel supply to Humboldt County, and consequently it can charge anything it wants. And boy, does it ever charge!! So, why doesn't another major refiner come into the local market to give Chevron some competition? There's not enough volume of fuel sold here to make the investment profitable. That's it. Period.
Corporate competition for Chevron would cause local prices to drop dramatically, but don't hold your breath. The big refiners rub elbows with each other, you know. Now, consider that there are three ways fuel is shipped: cheapest is by pipeline, next is by barge (all Chevron fuel arrives here by barge, never by tanker), and most expensive is tanker trucks. OK, now you do the math: Our gas is barged in from Richmond. Chevron (and many other) stations in Redding get their fuel by tanker truck from Richmond. Same source, and our fuel comes to us cheaper. So, why are Redding prices generally $.20-.30 below ours? Because we are being gouged by Chevron. Heck, it's a free market, and Chevron is charging us all the traffic will bear.
David R. Young, McKinleyville
Thank you for taking a swipe at big oil in Humboldt. We know of their larcenous ways and general disregard for customers, but in terms of how they outdo themselves in our otherwise fair land, this discussion has been long overdue.
I thought the most interesting news presented by Ryan was that most of our local stations are siphoning their gas from the same bucket. Not only do we have to put up with price gouging but it appears that any dignity formerly accrued to personal product selection has gone up in smoke.
The article laid out a number of important, educational facts. Unfortunately, the story has left us with a gaping hole in terms of local government involvement and potential solutions to this stick-up in broad daylight.
I read nothing about what our mayor and council have tried to do about this situation. Certainly oil companies cannot just set up business without a local relationship and contract. I would like to hear our representatives answer to the impropriety of local collusion but more importantly what they can do to put pressure on the "extra" profit margin that big oil is tacking on to wholesale prices.
Is it not possible to fire an oil company? Inviting one company to hit the road would send a message. Some will argue that this type of action would reduce competition. Really? How's that competition thing working out now? What can you do about it, mayor?
I would guess that the residents of Humboldt County live here in part because we do not appreciate toeing the corporate line, living with monopolies, or being forced to pay usurious prices for things. Every day we glower at the ubiquitous signage displaying those atrocious prices and remind ourselves of the nameless, shameless, faceless thugs of big oil.
Jon Exley, Eureka
"Why the heck are Humboldt County's fuel prices so high?" A better question is, "Why are U.S. fuel prices so low?" The answer is that we have oil reserves and government subsidies and we're spoiled rotten. The price of a gallon of unleaded is about $4.80 in Bangladesh, where one tank would consume about 6 percent of the average citizen's annual income. It's $5.40 in Tanzania, $6.80 in New Zealand, $7.70 in Israel, $8.40 in Hong Kong, and $9.30 in Norway. There are few countries (mostly OPEC members) with gas cheaper than ours, and even in some of those the price relative to income is higher. A trip almost anywhere outside this country gives one a very different perspective on our hypochondriac "pain at the pump."
The real cost of our gas is much higher than what we pay. Add the hidden costs of environmental destruction, pollution, social injustice, global warming, political instability, and military action to control access to foreign oil to the "up-front" costs of exploration, extraction, transport, and refining and the cost is more like $15 per gallon. If the retail price were more realistic we'd have fuel-efficient vehicles, decent public transit, better health and sensible community design. Instead, whenever our gas prices start to edge closer to the rest of the world's and to what they really should be, we start blaming the president and calling for reform. We should be calling for reform of a very different sort.
We are so insular in this country that we lose sight of how privileged we really are. It drives me crazy when people here complain about gas prices. Please ... Stop whining or move to Saudi Arabia, where gas is 70 cents per gallon. Just think how much you'll save -- especially if you're a woman, since you won't be allowed to drive anyway.
Ken Burton, Eureka
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