A Longer View of the Retail Gasoline Experience in Vermont

Michael Giberson

Free Press columnist Ed Shamy offers “a stroll through The Burlington Free Press archives about gasoline prices,” beginning January 16, 1974, continuing to today:

Jan. 16, 1974: Gasoline in short supply in Vermont. Entire communities without a single open filling station. And gasoline is obscenely expensive, an average of 48.7 cents per gallon for regular.

Jan. 19, 1974: AAA poll of 113 Vermont service stations shows most are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., most closed Sundays, all limiting sales to $3, and charging an average of 49.6 cents per gallon.

April 2, 1974. Some Vermont vendors are selling gasoline for as high as 53 cents per gallon for regular. Rampant speculation that oil companies may be gouging consumers.

Oct. 1980: “People will drive five miles to get 2 cents off on a gallon,” says the manager of a Berlin gas station during a price war.

May 1981: Three gas station owners in Londonderry predict a painfully slow summer tourist season because gas has reached an eye-popping $1.399 per gallon. Rampant speculation that oil companies may be gouging consumers.

May 1989: President of the Vermont Chamber of Commerce says, “When it breaks that $1.50 a gallon figure, that’s when it starts to affect people.”

August 1999: Burlington man: “Terrible! It was $1.19 the other day. Today it was $1.21. They’ve got you where they want you, and they are going to keep you there until they bleed you to death.” Rampant speculation that oil companies may be gouging consumers.

September 2005: “I didn’t know until yesterday that my pumps wouldn’t go over $2.99,” says a gas station owner in Elmore.

November 2007, with gasoline prices averaging $3.02 per gallon in Vermont: “Everybody keeps wanting to see what’s that point of impact where people start to cut back. We keep setting the benchmark, and people continue to travel,” a AAA spokesman says.

Today: $3.50 per gallon and rising with no end in sight.

Shamy adds a footnote: “In 2000, each Vermonter traveled 11,167 miles in a motor vehicle, according to the U.S. Transportation Department. By 2005, there were more of us and still each of us traveled more — 12,379 miles.”