How High Can Gasoline Prices Go?

Eleanor Hanson

Do you ever get the feeling that you as a consumer are being tested to see just how much you will pay when it comes to the skyrocketing gasoline prices we are continually facing? It seems that everyday the media is reporting that the cost of a barrel of crude oil is climbing higher and higher! This, of course, causes an immediate inflationary effect on the price of what refineries and fuel distributors charge you and I for the finished fuel product that we must purchase in order to merely go about our daily routine. For most of us, this has become an all too familiar scene as we are reluctantly forced to view our car’s fuel gauge and acknowledge that the little “E” stands for “Empty”, not “Extra”. Then the real horror begins as we drive past station after station, looking for that ‘bargain’, only to realize that with each passing gas station, gasoline prices are rising higher and higher, and since we are now running on fumes, we can’t risk going back!

While it is understandable that a rise in the cost of crude oil, (the main ingredient necessary to manufacture fuel products, such as gasoline and diesel), will result in higher future fuel prices, what I do not find understandable is the practice of charging more for the gasoline and diesel fuel that has already been produced from crude oil purchased before the rise occurred.

Gasoline producers and distributors need to pick a line of defense and stick to it: If they are going to argue the need to raise prices on the processing of the crude oil they just paid more for, so be it. But then they should be willing to sell for less their current supplies of fuel that were produced from crude oil purchased before their costs went up. Instead they argue that they must charge the higher price now because it will cost them more to replace their current supplies. If that is the case, why are they not willing to sell their current holdings for less on those rare occasions when the cost of crude oil drops, knowing that they will be able to replace it for less? Their answer? Because they had to pay more to produce the fuel they have on hand, they must recoup their costs as they sell it. They can call it what they like; I call it price gouging!

Just when you think they can’t possibly raise fuel prices any higher, you’re proven wrong, and there is nothing you can do about it. Or is there? More and more consumers are actually starting to home-brew their own fuels, such as “bio-diesel”. Others are finding that certain inexpensive fuel additives can effectively increase their vehicles’ mileage by helping the fuel burn more completely, which increases horsepower and lowers emissions, thus raising the efficiency of whatever fuel their engine consumes.

Although we as consumers cannot directly take control of runaway gasoline prices, we can take reasonable steps to make sure our fuel-dollars count.

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