Government Regulation In Action

There used to be two Exxon gas stations in our town that sold the most expensive gas in the whole state of New Jersey. Their gas was always at least $1.00 more per gallon than other stations around here. I often wondered if something fishy was going on, maybe someone using these two stations to launder money, since they clearly weren’t selling much gas at those prices.

Last month, a “New Ownership” sign went up on both stations and the prices returned to normal. But why were the prices so high for the past 10 years?

It turns out that Exxon used to own both stations. The stations were operated by a local businessman who rented the stations from Exxon. About 10 years ago, Exxon raised the rent. The guy who was operating the stations decided to reflect the high rent in his gas prices. He says it was a protest against Exxon (but how was he able to survive all those years selling so little gas?).

This year Exxon decided to sell all of their gas stations. Because of a New Jersey law, the people who were leasing the stations from Exxon had “first refusal”. They could buy the stations from Exxon if they could match the price Exxon could get from another buyer. So this local businessman matched that price and now owns and operates both stations. He no longer sells the most expensive gas in New Jersey.

Gas is still too cheap in the US (most of us assume it should never go above $4.00 a gallon), but it’s good to see a story involving government regulation and one of the biggest corporations in the world have a happy ending.

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