As of this writing, the current U.S. average gas price for regular unleaded fuel is $3.59 a gallon. But one city in Kentucky brought the price down to $3.36 by selling gas to the public themselves, undercutting the privately-owned filling stations. Hooray, socialism!
The Commonwealth Journal in Somerset, Kentucky reports that the tiny town of about 12,000 people just opened what is believed to be the first and only municipally-owned gas station in the U.S. The station opened Saturday to long lines of customers eager to fill up on cheap gas.
It's being decried as "socialism" by its critics, but it's really not when you think about it. More on that in a bit.
The Somerset Fuel Center is a bare-bones station, with no snacks or drinks for sale and no repair garage. It's just a gas station and it's incredibly cheap.
How did this Marxist triumph over the free market happen? Is it part of President Obama's long-term plan to turn our country into a nation of slaves dependent on the government teat, starting in America's heartland? Does this mean that we'll all soon be wearing gray state-issued jumpsuits and praying to a photo of Nancy Pelosi that is a mandatory decoration in our homes and businesses?
Not really. The Somerset City Council opened the gas station after they claimed the area's private gas vendors gouged customers with unfairly high prices. City officials in Somerset said gas prices there were 20 to 30 cents higher than neighboring towns.
Mayor Eddie Girdler said that he doesn't care "if they don't sell a drop of gasoline" at the former municipal station on the outskirts of town converted to use for everyone. The city paid about $200,000 for it a few years ago and recently retrofitted it for about $75,000. He just wants to bring local gas prices down. From the AP:
"We are one community that decided we've got backbone and we're not going to allow the oil companies to dictate to us what we can and cannot do," Girdler said. "We're going to start out small. Where it goes from here we really don't know."
Of course, this led to a major freakout in Somerset, with the area's Republican state senator calling the decision "socialistic" and several critics filing court injunctions and letters to the IRS to try and stop the public gas station from happening.
And understandably, the local gas station owners aren't taking it to well, either.
Duane Adams, a convenience store owner in Somerset, sees the city's station as a slap in the face that could hurt his business. "They've used the taxpayer money that I have paid them over these years to do this, to be against us," he said. "I do not see how they can't see that as socialism."
But this brings up an interesting question: How much will customers even care? The majority of drivers don't really care where their gas comes from as long as it's cheap. And the convenience store industry is hardly one that will garner a ton of sympathy among ordinary folks. Their taxes are already going to subsidize the cheaper gas anyway. We'll have to see if this idea catches on in other places.
Then again, it's not really socialism since there are still other, privately-owned choices in town that drivers are free to use. The other stations will just have to lower their prices if they want to compete. Sounds like the free market, doesn't it?
Photo credit Shutterstock
Hat tip to Clever Username!