“It all comes out of the same ground, so what’s the difference?”

7-Eleven selling Citgo gasoline in Staunton, Virginia Sheetz station in Staunton, Virginia Exxon station in Staunton, Virginia Texaco station in Staunton, Virginia

It all comes from the same ground, and so you would think that it would all cost the same. The way I figure, gas is gas. Yes, refineries make different blends of it for different regions of the country, and yes, there’s different octane grades, but I am of the opinion that gas is gas. It’s all refined crude oil, which used to be some dead plant or animal a long time ago. I notice no difference in the performance of my car when I’m using low octane vs. high octane fuel within the same brand, and I notice no difference between brands. As long as the car goes, I’m happy. Needless to say, I gravitate to the station where I can get the low-octane gas at the cheapest price. At the time I took these photos, Sheetz had the lowest price, at $1.29. For consistency in these photos, I took them all on the same day (June 3, 2001), I took the whole lot of them within an hour of each other, and all of these stations are within three miles of each other in Staunton, Virginia. Since then, prices have dropped, and the Sheetz is like $1.23, I believe, and the Exxon is hanging right around $1.30. However, you go into Waynesboro, and you have similar price levels, except for the Hess station and the RaceTrac across the street from Hess on Main Street, where they’re having a price war, with the price being $1.19 for the cheap stuff at each of the stations. Who ends up really making off like a bandit on that? Me, of course, since I can fill up my tank for less than I otherwise could while RaceTrac and Hess are trying to lure in the customers with low prices. Still, it makes you wonder… what makes the oil companies think they can charge so much? Yes, the bulk of the price comes from OPEC, the cartel that has its fingers in most of the oil business so that the prices can be raised to make the owners rich. But what about the subtle differences? What makes Exxon think it can charge a full 20¢ more per gallon than Sheetz? What makes the Texaco shown above think it can charge another 9¢ over Exxon? Do they think that their name being associated with the gas makes it so much more superior to another brand that they can gouge the customer at the pump? Is the name Exxon significantly better than the name Sheetz? I’ve had both in my car before, filling from a near-empty tank – the only difference is 20¢. The only time I have used Premium in my car recently was when I wasn’t paying attention and grabbed the Premium nozzle instead of the Regular nozzle at Sheetz one time. No difference. So gas is gas, and gas is as gas does, and I have found there is no difference between the cheap stuff and the pricey stuff. So let the savings begin!

Date posted: July 16, 2001

Notes: Funny to look back at the time of this article's conversion to WordPress (September 2011), and see the gas prices I was complaining about. Now with gasoline more than twice this price, I would love to have these prices again. Otherwise, two historical things - 7-Eleven no longer sells Citgo gas, and ChevronTexaco has exited the retail gasoline market in the mid-Atlantic US, requiring all Chevron and Texaco stations to rebrand.