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Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions

By David G. Hanger


January 28, 2013
Monday PM

Regarding one's detractors, it is generally appropriate to consider the source, chuckle, and move on. But gas price gouging is a real problem right now, and it does deserve to be addressed right now.

This co-op talk needs to be seen for what it is, a diversionary tactic intended to distract you, but otherwise it is an absolutely "do nothing" strategy. It will take three to five years to organize any co-op, probably longer given local standards, and the problem with gas price is RIGHT NOW.

Nor has Ellis or Thompson or anyone else put their money where their mouth is. Bill Tatsuda is right, organizing a co-op is not easy, and these people who are presenting this as a concept have no intention whatsoever of activating it. It's just intentionally distractive blather.

And you are damned right I am pointing fingers and blaming Paul Jarv''s friends for being gouging bastards. Without any equivocation whatsoever. As I emphasized previously this gouging has nothing to do with free enterprise and indeed does incredible damage to everyone else's free enterprise. Fuel is a basic commodity and allowing a monopolist to price gouge without response is crap. (Update: Our honorable mayor reports Thursday that sales tax receipts for gasoline providers are way up, everybody else way down.)

While free enterprise should indeed attempt to react to unacceptable circumstances in the market by creating new alternatives, any such effort takes considerable time, money, and labor and is not the appropriate response for what in fact is a problem right now. It is apdropriate to worry about what caused a flood of such consequential magnitude, but right now fishing Bob, Judy, and the kids out of the river is what needs to be done.

Government is the solution to monopolistic behavior, and I though tI was pretty dear on that when I wrote previously. Ellis was not offering solutions. There is no entity large enough to take them to court, and that leaves our elected officials and our government institutions to get off their dead asses and do something about this problem. I have not even heard one of them carp publicly, let alone activate anything, which suggests to me who bought and paid for a whole bushel load of very dull politicians. Find someone else next time, someone who wants to do something besides lard their asses.

All evidence indicates this is a problem at the wholesale level. If our wholesaler wants to claim that this is all on the retailers, hey, that is even easier, because that represents collusion to fix prices. At the beginning of the year the price at the pump in Juneau was $3.79 a gallon, the statewide average was $3.53 a gallon, the nationwide average $3.22 a gallon. In Ketchikan the price for lowest grade was $4.27 a gallon, a reported $4.75 in Metlakatla. The source of that data, by the way, was Mary Kauffman (Prices from

As I stated previously, licenses are required for this wholesaler at the local, state, and Federal level, and it is appropriate for all levels of government to respond to a monopolist immediately by comprehensive license review, audits, and basically any kind of harassment they can toss at them. We as individual members of the community cannot shame them into changing their behavior, but government enforcement can. And that is what government is there for, to assist us in resolving collective problems, and this monopolistic behavior has become a collective problem.

In the longer term government at all levels needs to do much more, including windfall profit taxes, heavy fines, and other disincentives to this persistent monopolistic behavior. This is a serious problem and needs to be considered as such. Rodney Dial is right. Southeast Alaska is pricing itself out of business. This is a dying town. There was a time when wages were higher here than elsewhere, but the exact opposite is too true now and the young people see that. Price gouging of basic commodities is ruinous to the rest of us and to our competitive opportunities in business and at home.

David G. Hanger
Ketchikan, AK

Received January 28, 2013 - Published January 28, 2013

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letter Museum By Rodney Dial

letter Ketchikan GAS CO-OP By William Tatsuda



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