Businesses in the small Kentucky town on Somerset are crying “Socialism!” in the wake of a disaster no business should ever face: some friendly, free-market competition. On Saturday, a new gas station opened. The station doesn’t serve snacks or do repairs. You won’t find any cigarettes on the shelves, nor will you be able to buy a 12 pack of cheap beer, but people in the area are flocking to the new fill-up location in droves.
What’s so special about this no-frills station? The prices. Mayor Eddie Girdler decided that Somerset residents deserve better than the traditionally high gas prices, which were 20-30 cents higher per gallon than in surrounding cities due to price gouging–so he did what any lawmaker in his position would do.
Girdler, a Republican, says that the goal is not to sell gas, but to lower prices–and his idea has worked. Neighboring stations have already reduced their gas prices by 10 cents per gallon thanks to the new competition. The amount the station charges is based on an average regional gas price, with a small markup to cover costs.
The station is open nearly around the clock for credit card purchases and features ten pumps for public use. “It’s been carefully thought out,” the mayor said.
“We don’t care if we don’t sell a drop of gasoline,” he said. “Our objective is to lower the price,” Girdler explained.
Residents are behind the city’s venture. “I’m tickled to death that they’re trying to do something,” Ed Bullock told the AP. “I’m glad they made the investment.”
“I’m glad somebody finally got some sense and lowered the prices,” said Patty Gossett, another resident.
While residents like no longer having businesses take advantage of them, the businesses who have been forced to price their goods more fairly because the free market demands it are calling the new station “socialism.”
“They’ve used the taxpayer money that I have paid them over these years to do this, to be against us,” convenience store owner Duane Adams complained. “I do not see how they can’t see that as socialism.”
The Kentucky Petroleum Marketers Association is urging nearby towns not to follow in Somerset’s footsteps. “If milk got too high, are you going to build a dairy?” said Ted Mason, executive director of the Kentucky Grocers Association and Kentucky Association of Convenience Stores.