High gas prices hit High Country customers
SUMMIT COUNTY – About 70 miles separate Summit County from Denver. About 20 cents separate the average per-gallon price of gas in each area.
This leaves many Summit County consumers with lighter wallets and less-than-cheery dispositions.
“I think it’s outrageous,” said Frisco resident Stephanie Brookover. “Just because we’re a small, local, tourist town, I don’t think we should have to pay outrageous prices.”
Brookover said the increased prices have begun affecting her driving habits.
“I’m either on my bike now or I just walk,” she said.
Inflated gasoline prices seem to have become standard in the High Country. While Denver currently averages $1.46 per gallon of unleaded gasoline, according to a AAA Web site, Vail, the nearest city for which statistics are available, averages $1.80.
The discrepancy is generally attributed to transportation costs.
“To truck (gas) all the way from Denver makes it a little more expensive,” said Tom Fisk, manager of the Silverthorne Texaco.
“In Summit County, if you’re bringing it by truck from Denver, you’re paying a significant amount of money for that transportation charge,” said Stan Dempsey Jr., president of the Colorado Petroleum Institute. “I would think that would account for a majority (of the difference in price). Summit County and Vail and places like that are as far from the (distribution) terminal as you can get.”
Transportation costs are not the only factor, however.
Although many service stations are influenced by other local merchants in determining costs, it is the corporate headquarters of the individual company that ultimately sets the price at the pump.
“It’s all market-driven, with the caveat that environmental considerations play into it, (as do) variables in tax situation (and) transportation,” said Michael Shanahan, spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute, a national trade association that represents the American oil and natural gas industry.
According to the federal government’s Energy Information Administration Web site, in April, 20 percent of the cost of gas was determined by distribution and marketing costs, while 41 percent was attributed to the cost of crude oil, 26 percent to federal and state taxes and 13 percent to the refinement process.
In Summit County, according to both Shanahan and Dempsey, it might just be that basic supply and demand plays one of the largest roles in determining price. Since there is a limited supply of local gas stations, businesses simply might be able to charge more.
“Those prices are set individually,” he said. “That (current price) may be what the market holds.”
That stance irritates many locals, including some people associated with the industry.
“I don’t think there’s really a reason for it,” the manager of one local gas station said. “I think they just think they can get away with it.”
Nevertheless, some businesses have begun to offer discounts to lure price-conscious consumers. The Frisco, Breckenridge and Eagle Loaf ‘N Jug convenience stores now offer a three-cent-per-gallon rebate to holders of a City Market or King Soopers Value Card. All three chains are owned by the same parent corporation, The Kroger Co.
Additionally, locals can find discounts in certain locations such as the Conoco in Wildernest Station, which offers a discount of 5 cents per gallon to Summit County residents who pay in cash.
Nevertheless, prices will almost assuredly remain slightly higher for residents of the High Country.
“It costs a little more to run a business up here than down in Denver, so we have to charge a little more,” Fisk said.
Although he thinks the price discrepancy cannot be attributed completely to the cost of doing business or to transportation costs, he nevertheless said he believes prices will remain high.
“That’s the way it’s always been,” said Fisk.
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