Dear Consumer Ed:
At $3.65 per gallon, it seems like the gas stations are just using the situation overseas to make a higher profit at the expense of consumers. Not to mention, just blocks away, another gas station is charging $0.20 less per gallon. I’ve heard that this isn’t price gouging, but that can’t be right, can it? And if it isn’t, what do people like me do to be able to afford gas?
Consumer Ed says:
What you’ve heard is correct. Georgia’s price gouging law is only activated during a declared state of emergency. And in order for gas prices to be covered, the Governor must specify fuel as one of the goods and services to which the “price gouging” law applies. Since Georgia is not under a state of emergency, the gas station is not price gouging.
When there is no state of emergency, the free market allows gas stations to set their own prices. They do so based on various factors, such as supply and demand, the price of oil, transport costs, refinery problems, what the competition is charging, as well as the political happenings in the Middle East.
As a consumer, you can ease some of the pain of rising fuel prices by shopping around for the lowest price per gallon via websites such as gasbuddy.com and GasPriceWatch.com.
In addition, you can improve your fuel economy by following these tips*:
- Slow down. According to the EPA, every five miles per hour you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional 20 cents a gallon for gas.
- Drive smoothly. Frequent starts and stops can reduce mileage by 2 to 3 miles per gallon, so avoid tailgating and slow your rate of acceleration from a stoplight.
- Combine small trips. Half of all car trips are less than 6 miles. Since driving with a warm engine saves gas and limits engine wear, try to string your errands together.
- Don’t be idle. Shut off the engine if you’ll be idling for more than 30 seconds.
- Lighten your load. At highway speeds, more than half of the engine power goes to overcoming aerodynamic drag. If taking a trip, keep luggage inside the vehicle rather than strapping it to the roof. Remove unnecessary items, especially heavy ones, from your car and trunk so that your engine doesn’t have to work as hard.
- Proper maintenance. Regular tune-ups, oil changes, replacement of air filters and keeping your tires properly inflated can all help improve your fuel economy.
- Economy cars. If you’re buying a new car, consider a hybrid or other model that’s received high ratings in fuel economy.
- Consider alternatives. Take public transportation or arrange to car pool. For short trips in your neighborhood, walk or ride a bicycle; you’ll save on gas and get a work-out!
*Source: Consumer Reports, Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy
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