Hurricane Sandy, West Coast refinery problems, scattered refinery fires and outages- all of these events this year alone have caused gasoline supply issues or spikes in prices. But while politicians talk often and open many spineless investigations, they fumble real opportunities to make a difference to quell these situations- they talk the talk, but they don't walk the walk.
The largest gasoline price spike in California history took place to start October, when average prices rose nearly 50-cents per gallon in just five days. GasBuddy first warned motorists and the public via
a blog post October 2, when prices were averaging $4.22/gal. They then rose to $4.62 within 72 hours of that warning. Meanwhile, California Governor Jerry Brown sat on the sidelines watching.
It wasn't until the statewide average had reached its peak, Sunday, October 7, that Jerry Brown finally stepped in and allowed emissions requirements to be temporarily waived. Why did he wait until the damage had already been done when GasBuddy, with a track record of forecasting price hikes before they hit pumps, issued a stark warning? I plainly said the situation "...could lead to massive spikes over the next week in California". Nothing but silence from the Governor until the damage was done. A perfect opportunity to have done something before the storm hit pumps.
Turn to Hurricane Sandy- a massive storm that left millions without power, without gasoline, and in some cases, with nothing left. While gasoline availability in NJ was not as dire as the situation in NYC, why did it take Mayor Bloomberg over a week to issue gasoline rationing plans to quell the gasoline problems in the boroughs?
GasBuddy had been tracking issues across the region and finally several days after the storm had passed, began sharing information with various agencies attempting to assist motorists in finding gasoline, but why did it take so long? Another fumbled opportunity. While politicians were vigorously saying they would prosecute price gougers, they didn't tackle the issue of gasoline supply. Talk is cheap- its easy to remind stations that you'll be fighting high prices via laws, but why not fight high gas prices by mandating to utilities that refineries, terminals, and gas stations are the first to receive power back? To be fair, this storm was large and NYC seemed somewhat unprepared, and hopefully lessons are learned.
The bottom line is that while politicians love talking about fighting high gasoline prices, there's little new action to report. It's talk and it ends there- even if GasBuddy issues dire warnings. Does the government need specialists to consult with them when fuel prices could face a tremendous spike? Should GasBuddy's expertise, with our millions of spotters and track record of helping motorists at the pump be utilized by government officials to keep prices in check? I certainly think so.
And there's so much more to do- in my opinion, I'm skeptical- are prices are being kept high by refineries who are limiting the amount of petroleum they refine? They have little interest in supplying more gasoline because that would hurt their own margins. Everyday- even with no foul weather- more could be done. Here's another chance, politicians! I bet they fumble this one too.