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Gasoline retailers are hurting too

by Bob Stealey

EDITOR

In reply to my Bob'n'Along feature "As I Look Around ..." that I used in my column Sunday, I had a phone call from a man who identified himself as a gasoline dealer in the Clarksburg area. I don't immediately recall his name, but he was taking exception to one of the items in the feature.

In it, I said: "Gasoline sales businesses are proudly displaying that they're selling fuel for our vehicles at $1.70 per gallon and higher. Shouldn't we, the drivers of vehicles, put similar signs on our cars, trucks and vans, proudly announcing that we're no longer going to feed their greed?"

He was not an unreasonable man. And he had the "guts" to identify himself, which told me that he had the courage of his convictions. And you know something? Having re-read what I'd written, first, I do wish I hadn't phrased it the way I did. Like any businessman, I'm sure he is just trying to earn a living, as is the aim of many of us.

Secondly, it is not he who was being greedy, as the rates of the gasoline he sells are set -- I'm sure -- not by him, but by the larger company that brings him the fuel on a regular basis. Retail gasoline sales establishments are highly competitive, especially when you consider that Americans spend MUCH of their week -- in total -- driving their vehicles.

Thirdly -- and I'm sure this is being said thousands of times in similar words -- our national policies that dictate the sources from which the larger oil companies get their "ingredients" for the gasoline to make our cars move about are seriously flawed. There is far, far too much dependence on foreign imports of oil. The country relies on getting oil from some nations that are anything but friendly with us, e.g., OPEC nations. When, oh when, will our political leaders recognize this for what it is -- nothing less than a glut by opportunistic Middle East governments that saw us comin' down the pike.

It's the politics of greed that propel the economy, whether in the "big picture" or in the individual board rooms of corporations. This includes the price of oil and gas -- in Baghdad, in Teheran or even somewhere in these great United States.

A few sentences ago, I said our national policies are seriously flawed. Heck, maybe my idea of economics is what's flawed. But it takes, on average, as much gasoline to make my car move about as it does others. And the gas that I pump into my tank -- and that you pump into yours -- isn't of one bit better quality than when it sold for 99.9 cents-per-gallon not so awfully long ago.

We've been terrorized by talk of $2-per-gallon gasoline? Now I'm even hearing hints of nearly $3-per-gallon gasoline. If we're going to drive, we're going to have to pay the price. Some of us are angered nearly to the point of rebellion, while others timidly shrug their shoulders in acquiescence and smile, saying, "That's just the way it is." But neither attitude amounts to a hill of beans unless it is put into action.

Again, my heartfelt apologies to the gasoline dealer who disagreed -- and with very good reason -- with my quip about higher prices. He's suffering the same as most of the rest of us are.

On a much lighter note, don't forget Mother's Day Sunday. And if you can, stop by the Anna Jarvis birthplace and shrine in Taylor County.

Exponent and Telegram Editor Bob Stealey can be reached by phone at (304) 626-1438, or by e-mail at rstealey@exponent-telegram.com.

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