The recent storms highlighted how vulnerable we are to power outages. One commodity in very short supply due to a lack of power was gasoline. It would figure that someone would try and legislate a requirement that gas stations have backup generators.
Let me start by saying I am no fan of big oil companies. Gas prices increase rapidly but as the price per barrel goes down, prices at the pump decrease at a much slower pace. But remember, most gas stations are independently owned small businesses and have very little control over their own pricing.
Rep. Roger Goodman of Kirkland thinks gas stations that pump an average of 125,000 gallons a month or more should be required to have backup power by Dec. 1, 2008. At this point I am glad that Rep. Goodman is from Kirkland and not the 5th District.
Let’s recall the approach of the storms. Forecasters warned us that a large storm was in our forecast. The Farmer’s Almanac correctly predicted the storms and we had days of warnings from various media outlets. Those of us who were thinking ahead filled our tanks the night before the storm and we made sure we were prepared. Those who weren’t prepared found themselves in long lines for gas at the Union 76 station in Snoqualmie.
Granted, there are some cases in which getting prepared isn’t always easy, as in elderly or disabled residents. But why should the government step in once again and mandate that small businesses provide a service that may not be economically feasible? Does Mr. Goodman not think that a free market economy could encourage gas station owners who saw the lines at the Union 76 in Snoqualmie to invest in their own generators? Why does everything always boil down to some mandate from the government?
Goodman does say that he will offer a portion of the costs of the generators back to business owners as a tax credit, which I am sure is quite the incentive for a small business that may have to shell out the money for a backup system.
I would rather see some kind of mandate that provides tax credits to companies that are providing alternative sources of fuel in urban and rural areas. Or a mandate that says all future developments shall have underground power. Or a mandate that says, if your tree takes out a power line, you pay for the down time.
The House Bill is 2053 and Rep. Goodman’s phone number is (360) 786-7878. Let’s tell him his bill is a bit short-sighted and then urge our own legislators to consider broader ideas than regulating a few gas stations.