MVC nixed effort by gas station competitors
Seven months ago Massachusetts gas prices reached their lowest point in four years. In the first week of December the price of a gallon of regular gasoline dropped below $2.50 at many Island gas stations, with the lowest reported price $2.24 per gallon.
By Island standards, December was certainly a bargain, but off-Island motorists were finding even lower prices that holiday season. An AAA survey during the same time period found a low price of $1.55 per gallon and a high of $1.99 per gallon.
As of Monday, the national average retail price for one gallon of self-serve regular stood at $2.6113, or about 3 cents cheaper than one week ago, according to AAA. "Compared to last year, when prices were reaching their record highs almost exactly at this time of the year," AAA reported, "retail gasoline is about $1.50 cheaper."
The difference between the prices of gas on the Island compared with the mainland has been a topic of interest -and suspicion - for decades among Islanders. And that gap appears to have widened over time.
A survey of gasoline prices published in the Times on November 1, 1990 reported a difference of approximately 26 cents between Island stations and Falmouth stations.
The lowest price difference between the mainland and the Island now appears to be about 70 cents.
For example, on Tuesday the price of a gallon of regular was about $3.36 at the Tisbury Shell Station in Vineyard Haven. It was $2.65 per gallon on the Cape and $2.62 in the Boston area, according to AAA.
Island gas dealers cite several cost factors, most of which relate to living on an island. These include sales volume, limited storage capacity, trucking charges, market forces, a higher cost of living on Martha's Vineyard, and the expense of complying with environmental regulations.
Another issue raised in a pending lawsuit is the extent, or lack of competition among the Island's nine gas stations spread around the Island -three in Edgartown, two in Oak Bluffs, two in Vineyard Haven, one in West Tisbury, and one in Chilmark.
In January 1997 the Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC), the Island's powerful regional land use permitting body, approved the Airport Service Station off Barnes road in the Airport Business Park. It was the last gas station to be built on the Vineyard, but not for lack of other would-be entrepreneurs.