May 7, 2010

Fuel Sources in Rural Communities: Gas Prices High Until June? (April 28, 2010)

In McGrath, Alaska the unleaded fuel prices went up literally overnight from 6 dollars a gallon to 9.20 a gallon. City and business officials decided the best possible way to deal with the situation was to have the fuel flown in. Shallow rivers were the cause of the barge delay, which it is thought would make this method of shipment unavailable until sometime in June.

Many rural areas rely on the barging of fuel as well as heating oil in coastal and riverine Alaska. Many fuel supply problems can be exacerbated where shipment may be prolonged due to natural conditions, such as ice and variances in water levels from year to year and season to season. This is something lager cities don't have to contend with. In these cases other methods must be undertaken and often enough the cheapest method is the normative method, i.e., shipping by barge. Other options entail an increase in cost, normally by air. Often these areas are located off of the road system and heavily depend on one shipper. Issues outside of nature may arise such as unpredicted increases of fuel use necessitate predictive expertise. In these conditions more planning is involved for these contingencies.

When a contingency in fuel prices develops there con be an increase in the general conflict within a community between the gatekeepers of the scarce product: the decision makers and suppliers of the fuel, and between that of the people effected by the decisions and actions of those gatekeepers. Feelings of conspiracy may develop, feelings of exploitation may create a tension that last long after fuel prices are restored. However unfounded, some anger may be harbored in a small town where you rely on your neighbors for support. Businesses such as the one gas station in town, might be looked at as responsible in some ways when they are not gatekeepers. Trips planned to driving in our out of McGrath may be halted until gas prices go back down. The Town mayor Kas Healy stated: "For people who basically are living at subsistence levels, I think it's criminal that this is not regulated". Healy may be stating that this is a prevalent enough problem to where it is deemed necessary to put a state regulated price ceiling on the selling of fuel in similar situations. While the cost for flying fuel in to McGrath is more than transporting it by barge, the residents still feel that the prices do not justifiably reflect the porportional increase in fuel prices at the McGrath pump.

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