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Gas cheaper in county, but it’s even lower elsewhere

February 25, 2016
By Amanda Dedie (editorial@westfieldrepublican.com) , Westfield Republican

Who cares what gas prices are in other areas? I'm stuck paying whatever price it is because I need fuel for my vehicle, and at least it isn't at the atrocious, almost $4 prices of years past. That's all that matters, right?

Wrong.

Outside the Chautauqua County bubble, you may be shocked to hear that gas prices are well under two dollars. In Erie County, gas prices are $1.84 per gallon. In Warren, they're $1.89. In fact, according to gasbuddy.com, the average gas price in the USA is $1.69.

Throughout Chautauqua County, however, the average price for a gallon of gas is $1.99, based on the averaging of 19 gas stations in Jamestown.

Why is this so? Shouldn't gas prices be the same price everywhere? It's all the same gas, right?

According to assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-C-I-Jamestown, gas prices are competitive in big markets where a number of gas suppliers are located. The majority of gas in Chautauqua County comes from United Refinery Co. in Warren, Pa.

"The mark up in gas in Buffalo is going to be lower because there are two to three major suppliers," Goodell said. "The closer you get to a plant, the more of a price advantage the local plant has. Their (United Refinery) mission is not to give the cheapest price. Their mission is to charge the most they can without losing business to their competitor."

Basically, this means that since they're essentially the only supplier, they can charge whatever they want, because there's no competition.

Perhaps the only saving grace so far for Chautauqua County residents is the Cattaraugus Reservation, an Indian reservation found near Silver Creek. People near and far will go out of their way to travel to Seneca Hawk or Native Pride, two gas stations on the reservation, to purchase gas for $1.49 a gallon - even lower than the national average.

"I usually go out of my way to go to the reservation to get gas because it's a lot cheaper than anywhere else. I once filled up over half of my gas tank for only 12 bucks," said Melissa Feola, a Rochester-native State University of New York at Fredonia student suffering from the 8-cent increase in gas prices between here and Rochester ($1.99/gallon).

"I go home a lot of weekends, so on the way to and from Rochester, I'll fill up my tank at the reservation, just because it's so much cheaper to do so," Feola said.

Is it a trick? A fluke? A temporary promotional price? Are people going to have to worry about reservation gas prices shooting up sometime soon?

It's OK. It's pretty much guaranteed that reservation gas prices will always be lower than prices at non-reservation gas stations at any given time. American Indian reservations offer the lowest gas prices because reservations are exempt from most of the state and federal fuel taxes that gas stations not located on a reservation are required to pay.

According to the American Petroleum Institute, New York state pays an extra 61.04 cents per gallon of standard gasoline in State and Federal taxes. This is the amount that American Indian Reservations are exempt from, explaining the fifty cent decrease from non-reservation prices.

Last year, legislation passed through the New York State Assembly that was fixated on gas price fluctuations throughout the state. As mentioned earlier, gas prices are different everywhere you go, despite the fact that it's all the same gas, just in a different location. Imagine paying $2 for a standard burrito at one Taco Bell but $3 for the same burrito at a different Taco Bell - it just doesn't make any sense.

The bill, however, didn't even make it to the New York state Senate, even though it logically stated that suppliers wouldn't be allowed to charge different prices for gas at gas stations in the same geographic locations, unless there was justification to do so.

"In other words, it would have moved the market to a cost-based market rather than matching the higher costs of competitors," said Goodell, who supported legislation. "I'm very sensitive to the price of gas across the state since I travel over 700 miles a week. I supported that type of legislation because I wanted to provide a fair and level playing field for consumers."

In September, U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-C-I-Corning, asked the U.S. Department of Energy why Americans weren't benefiting from the fact that oil prices were dramatically dropping over the years, and why gas prices were different from one place to another. According to Reed's office, a response from the Department of Energy explained that the discrepancy was a case of market supply and demand.

Except, the thing is - people demand lower gas prices.

"We still don't think the pricing scheme is fair and will continue to monitor this situation for ways that we can bring the costs down," said representatives for Reed's office.

 
 
 

 

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