State's highest gas price stings Clallam Bay dealer, too
By Randy Trick, Peninsula Daily News
Dave Weir, manager of Al's Mini Mart in Clallam Bay, is not sure he will have any gasoline to offer his customers in a week.
It cost him $5,384 on Monday just to get a week's worth of fuel - 1,500 gallons at the wholesale price.
Had he wanted to fill his underground tanks he would have to shell out $35,000.
That's money he doesn't have as a small convenience store, he said.
It's the highest he's seen.
And he fears that next week it will cost even more.
"It's economic terrorism," Weir said.
"It's destroying an economy.
The West End is "already one of the hardest hit areas of the country."
Weir is selling a gallon of regular unleaded at $3.749, the highest price in Washington state, according to the watchdog Web site, www.washingtongasprices.com.
Weir said he sees a crisis on the horizon, mostly from gas prices taking a bigger bite out of hard-working people's budgets.
And the tourists could stop coming, he predicts.
"Tourism is getting knocked out, and when that happens that's going to knock out Port Angeles and Sequim."
Monika Marriott, manager of Sea Breeze Grocery in Port Townsend, shares Weir's concern.
"It's going to effect (tourism) in a lot of ways," Marriott said.
"We'll see people not going on vacations. It's probably cheaper to fly.
"It has hurt, and we haven't even got into summer yet."
Weir's price seems to be higher than elsewhere in Clallam and Jefferson counties.
Most prices ranged from $3.34 per gallon in Port Townsend to $3.599 near Forks.
Station owners said their prices are slightly above the wholesale price, which has been increasing between 2 cents and 5 cents each day.
"I normally get a fax at the end of the day with gas prices, but (last Friday) I got a fax at noon, and again that afternoon," said Lita Townsend, owner of Shadow Mountain General Store west of Port Angeles.
"It went up 8 cents in one day . . . yesterday it went up 5 cents . . . it's up already 3 cents from yesterday," she said Thursday at about noon.
Prices in Clallam County's Sequim, Port Angeles and Forks ranged from $3.45 to $3.49 per gallon.
Prices in Jefferson County's Port Townsend, Chimacum and Port Hadlock were about a dime cheaper, between $3.34 and $3.42 per gallon.
Prices on the Northern Olympic Peninsula are higher than the state average - $3.325 as of Thursday, up nine-tenths of a cent from Wednesday.
Among the nine Washington metro markets monitored by AAA Washington, prices ranged from $3.42 in Bellingham to $3.167 in the Tri-Cities of Richland, Kennewick and Pasco.
"If this gas does what it's going to do, we may not buy another load," Weir said.
Marriott said most of her customers, though they do not like the higher prices, understand that "it's not the station's fault," she said.
"Inside the store, that is where the profit is, not on the gas," Marriott said.
Gas prices around Washington have set daily records for about two weeks, jumping 35.7 cents in a month.
AAA Washington, through the national Oil Price Information Service, runs the Web site fuelgagereport.com, which posts daily gas prices and historic trends.
The association does not try to predict gas prices, said Janet Ray, a spokesperson for AAA Washington.
It does, however, release survey results at the beginning of each summer about people's vacation and driving plans.
Higher gas prices can make a trip more expensive, but will not necessarily keep people at home, Ray said.
The association plans to release its summer driving report later this month.
"What we have found in past years. . . . people still take vacations," Ray said.
"They find other ways to adjust their budget so they can take their trips."
The association has also undertaken research about what drives gas prices on a national and regional basis.
The results so far show prices are driven by the economy, Ray said.
"Any time you have demand higher than supply and inventory, you run into unequilibrium and the market at work."
"What we're looking at today is that supply is not keeping up with demand."
Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna is looking into the gasoline market too.
His office announced April 23 a two-phase investigation of gas pricing to answer why prices vary so much within the state.
"We don't have a good answer for that question," said Kristin Alexander, a spokesperson for the Attorney General's office.
"The whole purpose is to see what is affecting prices in our state, and what is affecting prices on the Peninsula versus Whatcom County, Spokane, Southwest Washington and Seattle or Tacoma."
The study will look for patterns and trends in prices in the nine areas already monitored by AAA, then will expand to include more markets.
Bremerton is the closest monitored market to the North Olympic Peninsula, but Port Angeles is expected to be included in the second phase of study Alexander said.
"To a certain extent supply and demand are a factor," Alexander said.
"But what else is a factor?"
Other elected officials are asking questions about gas prices as well.
Weir contacted State Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, whose office told him Hargrove plans to look into pricing practices
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Mountlake Terrace, reintroduced legislation Wednesday punishing any price gouging in the nation's petroleum market.
And Alexander said that said any signs of illegal activity relating to fuel prices would be promptly investigated by McKenna's office.
Reporter Randy Trick can be reached at 360-417-3537 or at email@example.com.