The Humboldt Gas Scam (or, your annual $150 ‘tax’ surcharge)
The Humboldt Herald has added a new “Quick Notes” style section, “Humboldt Gas Scam.” It’s accessible by clicking on “Humboldt Gas Scam” just below the Herald banner, and the Herald hopes it will become a place to share information about the Chevron terminal, the local jobbers, the local stations, and the way in which prices around here get determined.
Willits Safeway is selling gas at $4.37. Other Willits prices range from $4.39 to $4.50.
A cruise from Giuntoli Lane on down Central Avenue in McKinleyville demonstrates the complete lack of local price competition: seven or eight gas stations on the same two roads, all within a few miles of one another, many across the street from one another, all pricing at $4.59 branded, $4.57 or $4.56 unbranded. Trinidad, ten minutes farther from the “terminal” than McKinleyville: $4.62.
There are several players who all point the fingers at one another, and we are regularly told that the problem is our distance from the Bay Area terminals.
But it’s less expensive to barge gas than to truck it, there doesn’t seem to be anyone attempting to reduce the cost of trucking by setting up relays, there’s only one terminal, and there are only a few players at the jobber and station levels.
And then there’s the most obvious piece of evidence that no competition is taking place: the lack of any visible price variation along stretches like Central Avenue in McKinleyville. At the least, it would be reasonable to expect a station or two to advertise discounts for cash or debit.
The new “gas scam” section of the Herald is a place where people can drop what information they have. Let us know what you know about the Chevron terminal, about a jobber, about a station. If you have knowledge of the cost of trucking gas, let us know. Same with barging. How much goes to credit card companies? Let’s accumulate enough information to begin to piece together the puzzle, since the players thrive on consumer ignorance and it doesn’t appear that government is going to help. Anti-monopoly regulation is just so passe.