Out for a walk in the charmless Rosslyn area of Arlington, home of Spectator World Headquarters, I ran into Harris Miller, ex-lobbyist and Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate from Virginia.
He was holding a photo op at a gas station — where gas is going for $3.11. Since I pass this gas station a few times a week, I know it’s the most expensive place around. In fact, the real estate is at such a premium that it’s located below a Methodist Church. (It’s down from $3.19 yesterday, which was the most expensive in Arlington.)
So, Mr. Miller, why the photo op at the most expensive place around? “Oh, it’s convenient.” I told him there are cheaper places right up the road, and that looking for cheaper places is how the market works. He countered by saying he’d filled up for $3.25 this morning. Where? Chain Bridge Road and GW Parkway in McLean. That, too, is one of the most expensive stations around, located at an important crossroads. Elsewhere in McLean, I said, there is gas for less than $3.
Talking for a while, I learned that Miller’s part of the Bill O’Reilly crowd. He has no problem with oil companies making their normal profit share, but claimed that they’re raising prices — and profits — at a rate outstripping the growth in crude oil prices.
Miller’s solutions aren’t helpful. He advocates more ethanol, though he denies that it costs more to produce than gasoline, even as taxpayers subsidize it to the tune of 50 cents per gallon. He wouldn’t consider lowering federal gas taxes.
And he’s driving an SUV, albeit a Mercury Mariner hybrid. At 33/29 mpg, that’s impressive, but no better than my conventional Nissan Sentra. If Miller really wanted to reduce prices, he’d reduce demand and spring for a hybrid sedan that actually makes the hybrid price worthwhile. And he’d stop patronizing stations in high-rent, high-traffic areas. As long as he fills up his SUV at these places, he’s only exacerbating the problem.
UPDATE (7:20 p.m.): Amy Ridenour has all the facts on profit margins that I didn’t. Apparently there is a negligible difference between the oil companies’ profit margins this year and the margins last year at this time.