Ohio group fuels pricing feud

| 1/29/2003

As preparations are being made for a possible war with oil-rich Iraq, a fight over fuel is brewing in Ohio, and truckers are being sought for help, The Columbus Dispatch reported.

An organization of fuel stations and convenience stores are campaigning against nontraditional fuel retailers claiming they sell fuel below cost to bring in customers.

The Ohio Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association is placing stickers on pumps throughout the state that read, “When gasoline is a loss leader, you lose.”

Selling a nonrenewable resource such as gasoline below cost or offering discounts with store cards can lead to waste and over-reliance on foreign oil, the group said. That damages U.S. energy security, especially if America goes to war, the stickers say.

The association is considering pushing state lawmakers to make it illegal to sell fuel below cost, the newspaper reported.

Some retailers, including Wal-Mart, are fighting back. They are forming the Coalition for Lower Gas Prices to oppose the bill and to refute the suggestion they are unpatriotic. The retailers say that they are offering fuel at competitive prices as a customer convenience, and that the petroleum marketers association is trying to protect its members from competition and guarantee them more profit at consumers’ expense.

The association said its proposed law would not dictate a certain profit margin but would force all retailers to sell fuel for at least cost.

The Coalition for Lower Gas Prices also plans to contact state lawmakers and enlist truckers and other groups in the fight.