Gas prices head into high gear across New Mexico

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Diamond Shamrock May 21 Gas PricesWe’ve received call after call the past seven days as Silver City/Grant County residents wonder about the cost of gas. According to AAA New Mexico, our state has enjoyed new record highs every day for the past sixteen days (the state average is $3.38 per gallon for regular unleaded). Under the current administration, rising gas prices (except during election season) are nothing new, but things have been especially outrageous in our neck of the woods.

The problem with Grant County is the lack of competition. Each outlet between Hurley and Silver City (and I’ve driven to Hurley a few times in the past week) is selling regular unleaded for $3.55 a gallon. Every single station.

The lack of competition has always been a sore point for residents in the area, and something we’ve tried to address in our articles in the past. In February, my colleague Mary Alice Murphy spoke to several retailers and a distributor to discuss prices. One retailer said Silver City is too competitive:

The owner of another station said the reason why the price is the same throughout the town is “because it’s so competitive. If I dropped the price a nickel a gallon or if another station did, everyone in town would match it by the end of the day.”

The price in February rose from $2.29 per gallon at the beginning of the month to $2.49 at the end of the month (with each station keeping pace with the trend setters as prices went up).

Another colleague, Jim Owen, wrote an article last Thursday highlighting the high gas prices. Residents aren’t the only ones feeling the pinch — school districts and local governments are increasing their budgets for next year because of rising fuel costs. The price-per-gallon when he wrote the article that morning: $3.36. By Friday, it had risen to the current record-high $3.55 a gallon. Since January, this is what the price has done, according to figures from AAA New Mexico:

Silver City Gas Prices: Jan-May 2007

I spoke with Phil Sisneros, spokesman for Attorney General Gary King on Thursday afternoon. Sisneros said fuel prices are affected by a variety of factors, including weather, foreign affairs and international incidents, and federal action.

However, Sisneros said, the issue is on King’s radar:

“We’re looking at it fairly closely right now. We’re getting a lot of calls though the consumer protection division, and we’ve been telling people we’re looking into the matter. Gary is definitely trying to find out if it is something we can work on.”

Sisneros said King was interested in the problem “because it is such a big issue for everyone.”

If you feel so obliged, you can visit the Consumer Protection Division Web site here, or call toll free: 1-800-678-1508.

I don’t have much to add to all this. If you can, walk more and drive less. The weather is great for that right now. Carpool if you can! Elect leaders that will enact sound energy policies, not develop them with energy companies behind closed doors. Visit Treehugger for green-living tips, to help reduce the amount of energy you use.