Right now, it's almost reached a point where it's worth it to drive to Boise to fill up your car and drive back.
Nobody complained last spring when we were a few cents cheaper than Boise.
But there's been a 35-80 cent per gallon difference right now, and we're not on the right side of that equation. As I was writing this, my wife called to tell me she had just filled up in Boise at $1.89 a gallon. That same day last week we had some gas stations here that were at $2.69 (although most were at least a dime to 20 cents cheaper than that).
Over this weekend, the disparity in prices began to close up, but it's still significant and the month or so previous, when the difference between Boise and Mountain Home prices was a lot more than what could be explained by the costs to get gas here, were ridiculous. Highway robbery, you might say.
That's a good question, but nobody really seems to know. No, that's not right. Somebody knows, but nobody is saying and anybody in the know who does talk points to someone else in the chain. It's not their fault, they tell us, but the guy above or below them in the distribution chain.
We've looked at this in the past when prices were higher (by a few cents) than Boise, and got nowhere.
Here's the problem.
Talk to the local service station owners, and they'll tell you they usually make less than ten cents a gallon profit, sometimes a lot less, like less than half that. But they won't say exactly what their profit margin is and there's no open records law for private businesses so I can't find out. They've not going to open their books to me and I understand that. There's no reason they should.
The station owners tell us the basic increase in cost is due to the distributors. The distributors tell you it's due to the extra cost to haul gas to Mountain Home, but at this point they must be driving gold-plated trucks. A few cents I can understand. Fifty cents or more, that's ridiculous.
Furthermore, the distributors tell you they don't make very much on a gallon at the wholesale level. Once again, they're not opening their books to me so I don't know if that's true or not. Instead, the distributors promptly pass the buck to their suppliers, saying the prices are based on what they sell to the distributors.
Which really doesn't explain the wide range of prices across the country. I don't see an Exxon or a Mobile deciding they're going to sell to a distributor in Boise a dollar more per gallon than a distributor in Boston.
So when a little country newspaper in Idaho calls Exxon or Mobile to find out what's going on, we get passed off with some boiler-plate response about Arabs and international oil demand, etc., etc. What we don't get is an answer.
And when the price of oil goes up internationally, it's always reflected almost immediately at the pump, but when it goes down it takes about six weeks to be reflected at the pump, the time period the oil companies say it takes, on average, for a barrel of oil to be pumped from the ground, delivered to the refineries and processed into gasoline that is then delivered to the pumps.
Somewhere along the line, and I wouldn't be surprised if there's a little of this going on at every level, somebody's lying. Meanwhile, the big oil companies will soon be, once again, reporting record profits in the tens of billions of dollars for the last quarter. The make more money every three months than most countries do in a year.
And if gas was $3.50 a gallon at the pump when a barrel of oil was $100, then it should be $1.75 now that oil is selling for $50 a barrel. In some parts of the country, it is. Not here.
So, in answer to the question, why is the price of gas so high here, and not other places, we don't know. We can speculate endlessly and if you're in to conspiracy theories, you can have a field day with this one.
But hard facts are about as rare to find as dollar-a-gallon gasoline.
-- Kelly Everitt