Friday, September 19, 2008

Cheap And Unavailable

Presumably the authors of this story (nor the doltish politicians who trumpet this kind of thing) can see the connection here. From today's South Florida Sun-Sentinel, in a story headlined "Many South Florida gas stations on 'E' as shortages continue":
Despite state officials this week assuring motorists there's an adequate supply of gasoline statewide, scattered gas stations in South Florida on Thursday continued to grapple with shortages in the wake of Hurricane Ike.
And then in a later paragraph:
Last Friday, before Ike struck the Gulf Coast and headed toward Houston's refineries, the wholesale price of gas spiked for many gas retailers. In turn, gas stations quickly increased prices, which triggered a slew of price-gouging complaints in Florida. Earlier this week, state Attorney General Bill McCollum opened an inquiry into the gouging allegations, sending subpoenas to several gas suppliers and dealers.
For what it's worth, lest anyone think I'm a partisan, Bill McCollum is a Republican, as is Governor Charlie Crist. They're also both idiots. Neither has wasted a chance to jump on the air this week to beat his chest over gasoline "price gouging."

But, of course, if the market had been allowed to set the price of gasoline rather than addled politicians doing it, there would be no gas shortage in Florida. Higher prices would've provided more incentive for quickly moving gas to Florida. And higher prices would have encouraged many motorists to merely use enough gas to get to wherever they were going, rather than rushing to fill up the tank with artificially cheap gas. Instead, once again, politicians get to portray themselves as virtuous, holding the line on prices for gasoline that a lot of stations don't actually have.

The good news is, it's cheap. The bad news is, you can't get it.

[For more in the same vein, see my old posts "A Cautious Defense of Price Gouging" and "Hot Gas."]

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