Have you seen Exxon/Mobil TV advertisements disguised as public service announcements in recent weeks?
Speaking on behalf of this Big Oil behemoth, an engineer or a geologist (in black and white) talks about innovative ideas (shown in color), presumably to show the great lengths Exxon/Mobil will go to address the energy and environmental issues plaguing the world.
Yes, these “PSAs” present a pretty picture. But what are they attempting to hide?
Let’s take a look at the financial sheet. For the first quarter of 2011, Exxon/Mobil – the world’s largest publicly traded oil company – reported earnings of $10.7 billion, up from $6.3 billion for the same period a year ago. That’s billion, in both cases.
This news comes on the heels of the company’s announced 2010 earnings of $30.46 billion (or $6.22 a share) compared with $19.28 billion (or $3.98 a share) in 2009. Revenue for 2010 rose to $383 billion from $310 billion the previous year. Again, that’s billion in all references.
So, a question seems in order: Don’t you think the higher prices charged by Mobil stations in Fairfield and throughout the county have more than a little to do with these record profits?
A second question? Why would you choose to pay $4.33 a gallon at, say, Mobil on Black Rock Turnpike when there are stations just a few blocks away that offer significantly lower prices? Driving south on Black Rock, there’s Star at $4.18 a gallon. Traveling north, there’s Shell and Irving – both at $4.19 a gallon – and Citgo at $4.25.
From where I sit and occasionally stand, it’s foolish to pay 8 to 15 cents MORE per gallon anywhere, whether it's at Mobil or some other station.
Be smart in these challenging economic times. Buy your gas where the prices are competitive.
Just about two months ago, I addressed the issue of zone pricing in an open letter to Fairfield’s four state legislators. It was entitled, “Legislators: Motorists Need Your Help.” In it, I asked them to work together to combat the unfair practice of zone pricing throughout Fairfield County.
Here is a joint response from our town’s three Republican legislators:
“On March 4th, the Fairfield Patch carried a letter from Mr. Don Harrison that addressed the Fairfield legislative delegation on the issue of zone pricing of gasoline. I know this is a frustrating issue.
“Zone pricing essentially is the retail sale of the same gasoline at different prices depending on the 'price zone' a retailer is located in. These zones are created by gasoline suppliers. This has been a standard practice of the industry for more than a generation.
“As a result of this practice, consumers might see a difference of 15 cents per gallon or more between the multiple zones just in this state. The practice of zone pricing has been especially disadvantageous to residents in Fairfield County, which seems to have consistently higher prices than other areas of the state. The industry does not disclose the boundaries or the criteria they use to establish these zones.
“Since 1997, the state legislature has seen several measures introduced to ban the zone pricing practice, but has never passed any of them. The General Law Committee refused to act on a measure to do so again just this year.
“Unfortunately, this is consistent with a legislative majority and a refusal to act on this measure, which would have the effect of lowering artificially inflated gasoline prices in Fairfield County.
“Zone pricing is unfair, anti-competitive, and we will continue to oppose the practice which adds to the high costs we will see heading into the warmer months. Unrest in the Middle East and the governor’s proposed additional higher tax on gasoline will escalate the cost even further.
- Rep. Brenda Kupchick, R-132
- Rep. Tony Hwang, R-134
- Sen. John McKinney, R-28”
That isn’t quite the response I was hoping for, but at least they are aware of this ongoing problem. One can hope our legislators will be joined by their state Senate and state House brethren throughout Fairfield County and will go after zone pricing in the next legislative session.
It's the right thing to do.