By David G. Hanger
February 12, 2013
I am asking you to do something about the extremely high prices we are paying for gasoline in southern Southeast Alaska. Prices have gone down across the nation and across Alaska since the spikes of last summer, but not here. The price here has not changed at all. We are being ripped off.
At the beginning of January the average price for gasoline was $3.53 across the state, $3.22 across the country, $3.79 in Juneau, and $4.25 or more here in Ketchikan. Add another fifty cents a gallon for the poor folks in Metlakatla. An average consumption of no more than 10 gallons a week per vehicle results in a rake off that is at least $1 million a month in excess profit just for gasoline sales alone. I rather imagine the average is higher than 10 gallons a week, thus it would not surprise me if these monopolistic practices are clipping us for as much as $3 million monthly in excess profits. And this is just for gasoline. Not included are such things as heating fuels, boat fuel, etc., so I think it is safe to say our fuel providers are enjoying a considerable bonanza at our expense. What that number is exactly I don’t know, but $5 million or more a month would not surprise me. That for Ketchikan alone.
As our mayor has recently noted, sales tax receipts are way up for our fuel providers, down for everybody else. The rest of us would like some of that free enterprise we hear so much about, but get so little of here because of these monopolistic practices and the rip offs that ensue.
In 1971 I worked as a tour bus driver in Ketchikan, for which I was paid then more than they pay now for the same job. But since 1971 the value of the dollar has deteriorated somewhere between 400% and 500%, at least. Between 1967 and 1987 alone the decline was more than 300%. In Ketchikan we have any number of government workers who earn $80,000 to $120,000 a year, but the private sector does not keep up with those kind of numbers. For every construction worker who gets Davis-Bacon wages (in fact, therefore, a government job) there are half-a-dozen or more earning $20,000 to $30,000 a year.
As other writers have noted Southeast Alaska is pricing itself out of business, in effect has already done so, and the young people of the region get it and are moving away in droves. There are few opportunities here, and our communities’ populations are aging and are extremely top-heavy with government workers.
Allowing a monopolist to run rampant in this environment simply accelerates the process of regional decline. We can gain no traction in the procurement of goods & services in the marketplace if we have no money left after filling up the car and paying the heating bill.
The only proposal to date to remedy this situation is a co-op, i.e. an attempt at local “nationalization” of the industry. This fails fundamentally because it cannot address the wholesale distribution, thus any co-op will be charging the same price as any other retailer because of the high price they are compelled to pay.
You purportedly are the Governor of this state. In your tenure to date you have appeared much more to be the employee of the oil industry. It would be nice to think you represent all of the citizens of this state, but in this regard your silence, and that of the elected officials of this region, is deafening.
Please take an adamant stand against these monopolists, stop these rip offs, and restore an opportunity for free enterprise to the rest of us. It is impossible for us to remain competitive in the marketplace if we pay twice as much or more for everything.
David G. Hanger
Received February 12, 2013 - Published February 12, 2013
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