Handcuffing Retailers

Daily limit sought on gas price hikes

ALBANY, N.Y. -- State Senator Carl Marcellino (R) has sponsored a bill that would prohibit New York gas stations from raising prices more than once in a 24-hour period, said the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.

That's not free enterprise, said Marcellino. There [are] not three or four deliveries in a day at gas stations. At most, it's once every three days. They're not lacking supply. Yet they're jacking up prices three times a day. It makes no sense.

The state Senate passed the measure earlier this month, 56 to 3 (one senator [image-nocss] objected because she said stations sometimes do get more than one tank delivery in a day). It has also drawn sharp opposition from the New York Association of Convenience Stores (NTACS), which said it is foolish to handcuff gas retailers but not wholesalers.

Marcellino is trying to get the state Assembly to follow suit. New Jersey already has passed such a measure and other states are considering it, the report said.

Assembly Energy Committee Chairman Paul Tonko (D) said that he would study the idea, but that it could be handled under price-gouging laws. I've received a lot of anecdotal information from people concerned about the same thing, said Tonko.

He added that the Democrat-led house is looking at a broader package of energy bills as well as toughening price-gouging measures. Topics include home heating oil prices and energy-cost assistance for low-income households and the elderly. Tonko said Assembly Democrats would unveil an energy package this fall, although the chamber is not scheduled to return to Albany until January.

NYACS calls the bill feel-good legislation yet wrong-minded, according to the report. Station owners are raising prices in response to wholesalers, association president Jim Calvin told the newspaper. Oil companies raised prices three times in one day during the peak of the price surge after Hurricane Katrina, he said, as prices soared beyond $3.50 per gallon for regular in some parts of New York.

If you owned a convenience store, and your fuel supplier, in a 24-hour span, increased your wholesale price three times by a combined 30%, what would you do? Calvin said in a memo sent to state legislators. Absorb those increase and sell gas at a loss so that customers wouldn't get mad?