By Jamie Py
When gasoline went to $2.25, I can remember exactly where I was: coaching my son’s football team. I remember because my fellow coaches and the parents of other players were extremely concerned about the outrageous run-up in prices.
Now, most people don’t have that seared-in-my-mind moment for something as mundane as a high gasoline price. But, since I’m the face of the retail gasoline marketers, it was a big deal at the time. I was further deluged with media calls and requests for interviews and, ultimately, the TV crews came directly to my house.
As long as they did not show the front of the house, I was fine with that. I expected the questions; the high prices were deserving of an answer. There were good reasons for the run-up, and the people should know why. So I was happy to tell them—as long as they did not know where I lived.
Today, however, I have not been asked by anyone about the price of gasoline cresting over the four-dollar mark. Some friends and neighbors, yes. But the media? Surely, in my mind, the populace would be outraged. My suspicion is that they are. I am. But where are the inquiring minds?
The only inquiring mind so far belongs to the Massachusetts attorney general. Not that she is looking in the right place, mind you, as she is seeking evidence of irregular pricing at the retail level. Are you kidding me? The average gross profit for a convenience store is 13 cents per gallon. She is worried about whether someone is charging $4 a gallon or $4.15?
If a convenience store owner pays $4 a gallon when the gas is delivered, then charges an average of 13 cents more to cover costs, isn’t the Massachusetts AG looking in the wrong place? She should be investigating why gas costs $4 in the first place.
It seems there is a bit of misdirection—or simply outright avoidance—about the high price of gasoline. Focusing on a retail-gouging investigation is the same kind of misdirection coming from the White House and the mainstream media, which hope to distract the American public by demanding more of Mitt Romney’s taxes or by insisting that a YouTube video is the reason for the Mideast erupting in violence.
We all know what is driving high oil prices: excessive speculation. Massive hedging and super volatile movements tend to steer the price upward. Perhaps the University of Southern Maine can find another economist that doesn’t believe there is any inflation and that there won’t be any in the next 10 years to convince us. Or maybe we need more “information” from the White House about how swell the economy is.
But I see it—and you see it—every day on those big roadside signs, reminding you that your pick-up truck now costs you $100 a week in fuel costs. We see it at the grocery store when a pint of heavy cream costs $3.50 and what used to be a 16-ounces container is now only 13 ounces but costs the same. We should all be outraged at the billions of dollars being siphoned out of every American’s pocket and into those that are manipulating the markets.
Is anything going to be done about it? Perhaps. The regulators do know what needs to be done. But there is very little will to override the greed associated with this massive wealth transfer. And further, since our President assured us that under his energy plan, prices will necessarily rise, I guess that’s at least one promise that has been kept.
In the meantime, I appreciate that the Maine Attorney General has not succumbed to a politically motivated investigation of retailers in order misdirect the real problem: excessive speculation and a lack of moral restraint by those trading in commodities around the world.
It is one thing for me to eliminate deluxe cable to pay for my additional gasoline costs. But it is entirely another when those in other countries cannot afford to eat and are starving because of this practice.
Is the media going to notice then?
Jamie Py is president of the Maine Energy Marketers Association.