Guest column: Highest gas prices in the nation? |

Guest column: Highest gas prices in the nation?

Mike Murphy
Guest Column

Does South Lake Tahoe have the highest gas prices in the nation? The answer to that question despite the headline grabbing report from AAA is no. That is a completely false statement.

South Lake Tahoe does not have the highest gas prices in the nation. South Lake Tahoe is not even in the top 50.

How can that be when AAA writes in its official report that South Lake Tahoe does have the highest gas prices in the nation? According to AAA spokesmen Michael Geeser “The reports do not take a comprehensive look at gas stations throughout the country.”

The report doesn’t look at all gas stations, so how can the report make any claims as to which gas station has the highest price? It can’t and it shouldn’t. It’s very poor reporting and the methodology is also very questionable.

Basically AAA picks a couple of cities and places of interest and then crowns one the highest.

Tahoe City used to be a place of interest, but no longer so they are not included in the report. Their current average is $3.40 – $.10 higher than SLT’s current average of $3.30.

Mammoth Lakes is not a place of interest and gas there currently costs $3.55, $.25 higher than SLT.

Yosemite is not a place of interest and the price of gas there is $3.57 and El Portal is at $4.27. Bridgeport is not a place of interest either, yet gas there costs $4.099.

The list goes on. Mono City? $3.92. June Lakes? $3.55.

King’s Beach or Truckee didn’t make the cut either at $3.40. Interestingly Stateline, NV and Incline Village, NV with lower fuel taxes, lower sales tax, lower regulation costs and no California Reformulated gas (which adds about $.10 to California fuel) and their average gas price is $3.38 and $3.42 respectively. They are $.52 and $$.56 above the state average or over 18 percent above the state average, but they are not included in report.

Now that we know South Lake Tahoe is not the highest, are the gas prices in SLT higher than they should be? Are they artificially high? Is there gouging or price fixing that is keeping prices higher than they should be?

The facts are undeniable and the research shows no.

Comparing the California state average for the cost of unleaded gasoline for the past 5 years with the average price in South Lake Tahoe, the spread is always $.15 to $.30. It’s very consistent.

Is 8.7 percent above average expensive for South Lake Tahoe? Again, no, since everything here is some percentage more expensive than Sacramento, San Jose, Los Angeles or other larger cities. All of the smaller cities, like Mammoth Lakes are much more expensive than South Lake Tahoe. Mammoth Lakes is a beautiful city with many similarities to South Lake Tahoe and their gas prices are currently $3.55 – $.25 above South Lake Tahoe and 17 percent above the state average.

But what I fail to see is the actual news story and the headline. Several times over the last years the Tribune has printed front-page articles about South Lake Tahoe’s high gas prices and the reality is they are $.15 – $.30 higher than the state average and they have been for the last 5 years. So what’s the story? Must have been a slow news day to report that something is of the same relative price as it was 5 years ago.

Keep in mind that South Lake Tahoe has expensive fees and regulations, our business fee is one of the highest in the nation, yet no articles on that. Land coverage has inflated our land values and lease payments and Best Management Practices, which should be the city’s responsibility, have added enormous costs on our businesses.

The costs of doing business in Tahoe are substantially more than 8 percent of the state average. My business license for King’s was more than $800, in San Jose it would cost $150, an increase of more than 80 percent. In El Dorado County it cost $32, yet we all get about the same services.

In conclusion if you think that gas prices that are 8 percent higher than the state average are too high and too expensive, then I think you are missing the Tahoe experience including high boater fees, high business fees and high rents. Show me one thing that is less expensive than the state average. Please someone compare our building permit fees to the state average.

Maybe the Tribune could do an article on the nation’s highest business license fees.

This data was 100 percent gathered using AAA’s website on Wednesday.

Mike Murphy is the owner of Roadrunner Gas & Liquor and King’s Beverage Company in South Lake Tahoe.

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