The Gas Revolt of 2010
LIFE IS GOOD
by Buckley Jensen
If you did not read Marcia Jensen’s letter to the editor in the Panorama last week or that same letter in this issue under “letters to the Editor” please do so before reading Life is Good. This column will make more sense if you read Marcia’s editorial first.
Our phone started ringing within minutes of Neil Joslin putting papers in the local convenience stores in Blanding last Tuesday night (March 30). Hasn’t stopped since. Neither have the e-mails and letters. Apparently, we are not the only ones who resent the negative image San Juan has acquired over the years from having some of the highest gas prices in the country.
Before I go on, I want to make it clear that that in our society, I would defend to the death anyone’s right to build a business and charge anything they want for the products they sell. Businessmen learn pretty fast that when they don’t compete in the market place they will not stay in business. However, in an isolated area where there is little competition, and everyone in the same business is willing to charge the same price we see the abuse that has been in San Juan for years.
As Marcia stated in her editorial, there are no other price signs on public display except gas prices in San Juan. And that fact usually translates into visitors thinking that everything else is probably as unreasonable as the price of gas, when in fact, it is probably less expensive to live in San Juan than where most of our visitors are from.
Why would local businesses do things that leave visitors with a bad taste in their mouths? With all the fascinating places to visit in this country why would they want to make the first impression of visitors who come here such a negative one? But that is exactly what happens when visitors come from Cortez, for example, where the last station they saw advertised gas at $2.82 and the First station they see in Monticello has gas at $3.24. That familiar scenario is repeated hundreds of times a day. That costs the unsuspecting traveler $12.00 more (assuming a 30 gallon tank) than it would had they been forewarned before they left Cortez.
Some petroleum dealers in San Juan give discounts to local people which lowers the cost a few cents a gallon below posted gas prices, but that does nothing for folks just passing through. However, you can bet those visitors will make a mental note to fill up in Moab or Cortez if they ever pass this way again.
The only place in the Intermountain West I have ever found which consistently has the high gas prices of San Juan is Mesquite, Nevada. Do you think I ever forget to gas up in St. George or Las Vegas, so as to avoid getting gauged in Mesquite?
I drove to Salt Lake March 14th . Gas was $3.24 for regular grade gas in Monticello and $3.26 most places in Blanding the day I left. I filled up in Provo for $2.70 a gallon on my way north. Gas was slightly lower in places in Salt Lake. Assuming a 30-gallon tank, I paid $16.20 less in Provo that I would have in Monticello. On the way home the average price of gas from Soldier Summit to Moab was $2.84 a gallon. That is 40 cents a gallon less than Monticello. Do you think I forgot to fill up in Moab? The next day I called Maverick in Cortez. Texaco’s posted price that day was $2.82 The difference between filling up in Monticello and Cortez on April 15th (assuming a 30 gallon tank) was $12.00. I guess the affluent among us would not think that was a big deal until they look at it as an annual cost. If you use about a thankful of gas a week, the extra you will pay in San Juan versus Cortez and Moab will be about $650 per year.
Marcia and I have purchased gas in 47 of the 50 states in the last six years. I can say, without equivocation, that except for Mesquite, Nevada, we have never found an incorporated town or city which had gas prices as high as San Juan County. Even Dove Creek is generally 8 to 12 cents lower than Monticello.
Frankly, it’s an embarrassment to most San Juaners. When my children come home, or friends or relatives come to visit, they mention gas prices more than any other single thing about our home town. It gets old trying to tell people that Monticello and Blanding are nice places to live, despite the gas prices.
All we ask is that San Juan County gas prices be in line with Moab and Cortez! THAT’S ALL! If gas dealers in communities all around us can do it, why can’t we?