Local News

Bill Against Selling Gas Below Cost Considered

Posted July 2, 2004

— A bill before the state Senate would make it illegal for certain retailers to sell gas significantly below cost.

According to petroleum marketers, big-box retailers like Wal-Mart can take a loss on gas and make up for it on other products.

Opponents of the bill said the General Assembly should not interfere with private business.

"This has been tried in places like the USSR, you know, and Cuba and such places," said Sen. Hugh Webster, R-Burlington. "You start tinkering with the market, you wind up with shortages."

The

North Carolina Petroleum Marketers Association,

which represents almost every gas station except the big boxes, has a different view.

"We can't compete," said Petroleum Marketers spokesperson Gary Harris. "There are instances in North Carolina where some Mom-and-Pop operations, some convenience stores, have gone out of business because they could not compete on pricing with the big-box retailers."

Whether the bill is passed to protect mom and pop, or rejected to save capitalism, the bottom line for consumers remains the price at the pump.

"I wish my friends in the petroleum marketing industry could find another solution and another subject and another issue because this is not a good one, I'll tell you," Webster said.

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