The Gas Cap

The gas cap is in the news again today. Hawaii has a state enforced cap on the wholesale price of gasoline. Governor Linda Lingle wants to remove it, while the state legislators want to keep it. The legislation was enabled because gas prices in Hawaii are typically the highest in the nation, and prices never seem to fall at local pumps even when they do on the mainland. Specifics of how the Hawaii gas cap works can be found here. The Public Utilties Commission publishes the weekly gas cap a few days before it goes into effect for the next week, and the local media picks up on it. We have “gas watch” pieces in all the newspapers, TV and radio. Proponents assert that the cap is necessary to shield the consumers from price gouging. Opponents fire right back with arguments that competition within the free market naturally provides the best prices. Here’s the rub: no one really knows how well it’s actually working. Both sides continually trot out study after study after study to prove that their stance on the matter is the “right” one. People ask me all the time what I think about the gas cap (it’s a popular topic here), and I used to say it’s worth a shot because obviously the yap yap yap theoretical economic arguments being waged in the state legislature have not conclusively proved anything. We might as well try it right? It’s not like things can get much worse.

Well guess what? It has. I was looking in the paper and saw a small headline about how gas is going to go up 14 cents next week! OMG! Then I hear about it on the radio. OMG! Then I see it on TV…you get the picture. I realized yesterday that I’m just tired of hearing about it. I’m thinking that the real cost of the gas cap is the fact that it’s just one more piece of crap thing that I have to hear/see/think about in my already too-complicated life. You can’t escape it. If it were invisible, I wouldn’t care – but I just can’t see the media suddenly deciding to not report on it anymore. People are actually planning gas strategy games. It’s old. It’s tired. I’m sick of it. Get rid of it. Even if it saves me a few bucks every week, I’d honestly pay that to never have to hear about it again.

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