What can we do about the Chevron monopoly?
One of the perennial complaints in Humboldt County is the unusually high price of gasoline. In an excellent article in the North Coast Journal back in July, Ryan Burns explored the high price of gas and noted that most gas is barged to Chevron’s terminal behind the Bayshore Mall. The alternative is trucking it, which can require overnight stays by truckers. Our gas ends up costing, consistently, 25 to 40 cents more at the pump than the gas at Willits, which doesn’t need overnights and where a Safeway station forces the other stations into something supposedly all-American: competition.
So, dear Herald readers, how do we get out from under this monopoly?
How do we get an alternative storage facility for barged gas, meaning that alternatives to Chevron’s storage tanks can create a competitive market? It doesn’t need to be as large as Chevron’s; it just needs to exist. Or, in the alternative, how do we convince Chevron to stop price gouging Humboldt gasoline users?
How do we get competition on price among local stations, so that local stations’ markup becomes more like the markup in Willits?
Can short-sea shipping play a role? Can government? Would prosecution of people engaged in anti-competitive behavior work? Should a solution to this problem be a requirement for re-electing any Supervisor?
The problem with a “free market solution” is that anyone who invests in creating fair competition would lose money the moment Chevron lowered their prices to match them. The public would win, but the entrepreneur would lose. So “free market solutions” are simply unrealistic. What are the alternatives?