Addressing The Cost Of Gas

David J. Valesky

September 09, 2005

Like so many people in Central New York, I have been deeply saddened by the
human tragedy in the Gulf States. At the same time, I am astounded at the
speed that this disaster has affected New York fuel prices.

As individual Americans dig deep into their pockets to send something to those in need, we
are being forced to put more of that money into the pockets of the very oil
companies that reported record profits just weeks ago. It does not seem

I have been vocal that the state needs to address this issue. As a
Legislature, we can start by either capping or temporarily suspending the
four percent tax on all gas sales. Several of my colleagues have voiced
support for similar action. The Senate has been called into special
session September 20 to consider a state response.

However, in addition to gas costs, we must take action immediately to deal
with higher than ever heating fuel costs that are likely this winter.

While there are immediate steps we can and must take, this current fuel cost
problem is larger than our Legislature. Take, for instance, the possible
state gas tax suspension. While this would certainly help, 4% is a small
amount when overall gas prices have gone up 100 percent in the past year –
and more than 25 percent in the week following the hurricane.

While all companies and individuals have a right to make a profit, no one
has a right to engage in profiteering during a time of national emergency.
Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has begun an investigation into the abrupt
price increasing to determine if there was any price-gouging by oil
companies. As this investigation continues, I will be carefully monitoring
the situation.

We all understand that the hurricane disrupted the ability of several
refineries to make gas – impacting approximately 10 percent of our national
production and certainly affecting the cost of fuel in the weeks ahead. What
we cannot understand is why the cost of gas went up thirty to fifty cents a
gallon here in Central New York just two days after the hurricane. Even the
New York Association of Service Stations & Repair Shops, whose members own
local gas stations forced to hike prices, has called for a state
investigation into the price hikes.

A constituent called me last Wednesday to say he watched as a gas station
upped the price 25 cents per gallon. There was no tanker truck at the
station. A new delivery of more expensive gas had yet to arrive. Even the
tankers arriving now are bringing gas produced before the hurricane.
The almost immediate price increase here in Upstate New York and across the
country had more to do with panic and prognostication than with the
inevitable impact on supply. And, like any self-fulfilling prophecy, as the
prices continued to rise an immediate supply problem developed as fear grew
that gas would be even more expensive in the weeks ahead. People were
filling up their tanks in a version of a run on the bank.

So now, following one of the worst natural disasters in American history,
people in the Gulf Coast are struggling to survive, Americans everywhere are
paying more than ever for fuel, and oil stocks are doing just fine. It is
not right.

We are in the midst of a national crisis – a crisis that could worsen as
cold descends on places like Upstate New York. It is time for Americans to
band together.

I am committed to working with my colleagues in the Legislature to do our
part for the people of New York. It is going to take hard work and
sacrifice from every sector to deal with this fuel crisis. If we work
together, we will make it through.