CBS News's Jim Axelrod has blogged about his now-ended Price Patrol cross-country assignment which concluded this week. The feature highlighted the cost of gasoline across the country from New York to San Francisco. Axelrod and his producers hopped a red-eye from San Francisco to cover alleged price gouging in Atlanta, which has seen high gas prices following Hurricane Katrina due to a pipeline which has gone offline.
Axelrod paints with suspicious a gas station owner who set gas prices for premium gasoline at $6 per gallon at one point yesterday:
We've talked to three men who own or operate gas stations. Two are Exxon stations. A gallon of unleaded regular at one was $2.99. At the other, $3.19. Both say they are at the mercy of their wholesalers, although Michael Cleary, the guy who's got it at $2.99, says staying under $3.00 is very important to him. The other gentleman operates a BP station. At one point yesterday he had super unleaded over $6 a gallon!
I went to ask him why. He had an interesting explanation. Basically — and follow me with the logic on this one — he said he raised the prices because he was worried he'd run out of gas and didn't want his customers to buy gas. I asked him why he didn't just shut off the pump. The conversation ended quickly. We'll show it to you tonight on the CBS Evening News.
Actually, the decision makes perfect sense. With an uncertain supply of gasoline from a pipeline which might not be restored for days and weeks, and with Gulf Shore refineries offline, it would be prudent for a gas station owner to raise gas prices to encourage conservation and prevent a run on his station which would result in a depletion of gas stocks before another shipment was able to arrive.
At any rate, I guess we'll have to see how Axelrod plays it on tonight's Evening News.