Theres pain aplenty for Oregons energy-consuming citizens and businesses meaning, basically everyone in Oregon as the West Coasts gasoline supplies remain uncomfortably tight following a February refinery fire in Washington.
While most of the nations motorists experienced little or no pump price shock when they filled their tanks this past holiday weekend an average nationwide price of $3.63 per gallon for unleaded regular, according to AAA in California, Washington and Oregon, prices were much higher.
As observed by the Chieftain, if you gassed up in Wallowa County during the weekend, you paid up to $4.35 per gallon for regular, while $3.99 was the most common price in La Grande.
According to various press reports, gas prices have been dropping lately in some states Michigan and Illinois, for example but analysts arent promising this trend will continue. Regardless, the three West Coast states will be the worst place to fill up this summer in the lower 48 states.
How might this West vs. not-West pricing disparity play out locally? Thats not easy to predict, but theres ample reason to expect that tourism an important industry to Wallowa County now will weather the price spike well. It would probably require an awfully large increase larger than this motoring seasons run-up to discourage people from coming here.
As usual, though, its the local citizens that will feel most pinched, and mainly in their everyday activities: driving to and from work, making trips between communities, just leading a normal life. And, as in past times of higher-than-normal gas prices, the personal adjustment for most people wont be limited to their driving plans. They may reduce their motor travel somewhat, but theyll also cut back in other areas of personal spending, which isnt particularly good for the local economy.
Its also usual for people to wonder in a low-supply situation if it could have been avoided. Or, on a more paranoid note, if it was deliberately planned. Apparently with this very mindset, in fact, Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio (whose congressional district doesnt include our part of the state) has issued the call for an investigation that youd expect from someone, anyone, in the congressional delegation.
The substantial decline in refinery production over such a short period on the West Coast is suspicious at best and predatory at worst, wrote DeFazio in a letter to the U.S. Justice Dept. urging that it launch a probe through its Oil and Gas Price Fraud Working Group. The current situation brings to mind the content of three internal memos from Mobil, Chevron, and Texaco leaked in the late 1990s that explicitly revealed how the oil and gas industry intentionally reduced domestic refinery capacity to drive up profits, the letter continued.
The truth is, oil companies know they can make more money by making less gasoline even if that comes at the expense of American consumers and small businesses, DeFazio stated.
Its possible that DeFazio is merely grandstanding, but hes certainly welcome to go get em anyway. We small-fry consumers, however, shouldnt be holding our breaths anticipating some fresh and damning revelation that leads to market justice, or even just a little earlier price relief.
Weve been down this road too many times before.