Editorial: Fuel folly

Editorial board members:

• Matt Beckett

— Community representative

• Brad King

— Community representative

• Allan Reishus

— Community representative

• Bryce Jacobson

— Newspaper representative

• Jerry Martin

— Newspaper representative

Our View

Though gas prices have decreased recently to levels comparable with stations in surrounding communities, it seemed as though Craig prices for a long time were more expensive. This fact, when combined with the sometimes-uniform movement in the prices at local stations, is a recipe for residents to be suspicious of price fixing. The editorial board hopes those days are over, but if the discrepancy returns residents do have options.

Moffat County residents who visited the gas pumps in the past week were greeted with a nice surprise in the form of lower prices.

Aside from providing a little relief to patrons, the decrease also marked the first time in what seems like a long time that prices in Craig have been competitive with those at stations in surrounding communities. Despite proximity to places like Hayden and Steamboat Springs, it seemed for years like gas prices were always around 10 cents more expensive in Craig.

During this time there was a grumble of disapproval from area residents evident in community conversation as well as even a few letters to the editor. That grumble grew significantly louder early this month when that price difference ballooned to as much as 30 cents.

When members of the community have enquired in the past as to the reason for the discrepancy, transportation costs is usually the answer they receive. It seems a little funny to the editorial board that stations just down the road don’t seem to incur those same costs.

And if that doesn’t poke a big enough hole in that theory, try visiting a gas station located near a refinery or gas distribution center. Those prices never seem to indicate the absence of any “transportation fees.”

Don’t misunderstand, board members aren’t accusing anyone of price fixing. However when you combine the lack of a credible explanation with the fact that prices at many of the gas stations in Craig seem to change the same amount at the same time, it’s easy to understand why residents might be concerned.

It looks as though the problem has fixed itself — at least for now. But if locally-sold gas becomes more expensive again in the future, the big question once again will be: What can the residents of Moffat County do?

For anyone seriously concerned about price fixing, the place to voice that concern is the office of Colorado’s Attorney General John Suthers, who has made it clear in the past that he won’t tolerate price gouging when it comes to gasoline.

The other option would be to drive 17 miles east to Hayden to get gas.

While every board member certainly promotes the idea shopping locally, it has to be a two-way relationship. When any local vendor violates that relationship and uses Moffat County’s rural location as an excuse to make more money, they lose the right to claim the community benefits from their success.

By and large, that isn’t a problem in Moffat County with its wonderful array of local businesses. The editorial board sincerely hopes it doesn’t become an issue at our gas pumps.

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