News and Tribune

June 28, 2013

NASH: The price we pay for gas

By MATTHEW NASH
Local columnist

I know that I will probably regret even bringing this up, but I had to say something out loud to somebody besides my wife. 

For some time now I have noticed something and I am just wondering if I am the only one. I have been following the trends closely lately and have realized that the price of a gallon of gasoline has remained exactly the same at the Swifty at the corner of Spring and Silver streets in New Albany for at least three weeks.

It all started a few weeks ago, when the price of gas was reportedly headed north of $4 per gallon. That week, there was a news article in another newspaper reporting that the Indiana Attorney General’s office had received 80 complaints over the first few days of June after receiving only 15 in the month of May related to the price of gasoline. At the time, Indiana was reported to have the fourth-highest gas prices in the country.

The reason for that spike was apparently due to production delays at seven out of 10 of the Midwest’s largest refineries. The refineries in question had been hit by unforeseen technical problems or had slowed down production for routine maintenance. 

I am curious as to why they picked the first week of summer vacation for many people to do their “routine maintenance.” Would it not have been better to get it out of the way before the demand for gas became greater?

The week that it was reported that gas prices had been spiking across the state, the price of a gallon of gas at the Swifty that I drive by nearly on a daily basis was $3,49. A couple of days after the story reporting the price of gas was going up, that same Swifty station lowered the price to $3.48, where it has remained constant for over three weeks.

At the time, many of the other stations that I pass by on a daily basis had raised there prices to about $3.69, which is the highest that I had seen it within the city limits lately. 

WDRB-TV posted a report on June 6 where they sent a news crew up Interstate 65 where they found gas for $4.25 in Scottsburg. The following weekend, the family and I took a road trip to Lafayette for the high school graduation of one of my nephews.

I discovered most of the gas prices north of Southern Indiana all to be more than $4 — the highest price being around $4.29. I was able to find the best price we saw all day just off of the Seymour/North Vernon Exit for $3.89. When I went to fill up there, I got just enough to get home, hoping that the Swifty price had not gone up while we were gone. To this day, that price has not changed.

It has always amazed me how the price of gas can just change from day to day. In nearly every other retail purchase, most prices never change that frequently or that drastically. In recent months, the price of gas has jumped up to 60 cents in one day. Of course, everyone complains that it will jump 60 cents overnight, but it only comes down in penny increments.

Gas prices are said to be driven by the price of crude oil, cost of refining, distribution and marketing cost and the taxes that we pay on our gas. Crude-oil prices are affected by the supply and demand of oil and the value of the American dollar. Speculation in the commodities market can also drive up the price of oil and consequently the price of a gallon of gasoline.

Gas prices have gone up considerably over the last decade. According to the website gasbuddy.com, the price of gas in June 2003 was hovering around the $1.50 per gallon mark. The $3 barrier was broken in 2006 and the price spiked in the summer of 2008. As the American economy was on the brink of collapse, it went to more than $4 a gallon for the first time. The price plunged in the winter of 2009 to less than $2 briefly and then grew to over $3, where it has remained fairly constant. 

There is not a lot that the average American can do about the price of gasoline. We are forced to pay whatever the neighborhood station tells us that we have to. Over the last few years, I have tried to do my best to cut back on my consumption, but I have not noticed much of a change based on my behavior alone. 

Some people buy their gasoline from the same place every time they fill up. Others fill up wherever they find the best price. I usually buy mine in the most convenient spot, with the lowest price. 

I do not endorse the gasoline at the Swifty on the corner of Spring and Silver Streets in New Albany. I do not know whether their gas is any better or worse than any other gasoline in town. 

I do know that for more than three weeks, they have not changed their price for a gallon of gasoline, while others have gone up and down nearly on a daily basis.

— Matthew Nash can be reached at dmatthewnash@g-mail.com