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Higher gas prices keep Mountain City in the headlines

By Karla Prudhomme
Freelance Writer

People are doing double-takes as they drive past our local gas stations, and with gas prices ranging from $3.14 to $3.21 a gallon, it’s no wonder that people are shocked. Unfortunately, many locals are choosing to drive out of town to purchase their gas. Across the state line in Boone, North Carolina, the average gas price is below $3 a gallon, and at the ‘Speedway Gas Station’ on Hwy. 105, regular unleaded is priced at $2.95 a gallon. North Carolinians have long been traveling to Mountain City to grocery shop and fill up their gas tanks, as we have historically had much lower prices, but that trend is being reversed, at least in terms of gas prices.

North Carolina’s gas tax sits at 36.1 cents a gallon compared to Tennessee’s recently increased gas tax rate of 27.4 cents a gallon, and the transport of gas to Boone has long been stated to be the reason for the higher gas prices there. This same argument is being cited here locally.

Across the other state line in nearby Abingdon, Virginia, the average gas prices are around $2.84 per gallon- a 37 cent difference compared to the highest local gas price of $3.21 a gallon. The Virginia gas tax rate is slightly lower than Tennessee’s, with a 26.2 cent per gallon gas tax. The average for a gallon of unleaded gas in nearby Elizabethton is around $2.78, though at WalMart’s ‘Murphy’s Gas Station,’ you can purchase regular unleaded for $2.75 a gallon.

Many locals are questioning whether ‘price-gouging is occurring; however, though the local gas prices are undoubtedly higher than our neighboring cities, price-gouging laws aren’t activated by the Governor’s office unless and until there’s a declared State of Emergency or an abnormal economic disruption-which we both just recently experienced. Price-gouging falls under the purview of the State Attorney General’s Office, and should we once again experience the State of Emergency; one can visit, click on ‘Attorney General’s Office’ and file an online complaint.

Since the economic system is based on a ‘free market,’ many choose to accept the exponential increase in local gas prices or buy gas elsewhere, which harms the local economy. County Mayor Mike Taylor weighed in on the issue of the high gas prices throughout Johnson County. He stated: “I believe it to be very unfortunate for the good of the general public that we have gone from an energy-independent nation to one that now must seek products from foreign sources. As the demand for fuel increases, the supply chain is critical. It is the case that increased fuel prices raise the cost of anything moved by trucks, we must realize fuel is moved by trucks, so I am sure that part of the price increase is due to that.”

Perhaps the reason for higher gas prices is due to domestic inflation? They may be indicative of the higher prices for everything across the board. Whatever the reasoning, these higher gas prices certainly cut into the family budget and make it more challenging to make ends meet.