We’ve all seen the difference in gas prices between Delaware and Maryland these days. It’s not a small one — as the cost of gasoline across the line in Ocean City, Md. is often 30 to 40 cents per gallon cheaper than at our local gas retailers. It is, to be brutally honest, worth driving across the line to fill your tank, even if it means turning your back on local gas retailers.
It might not be a situation many of us are comfortable with, and it can certainly be a nuisance to battle traffic just to fill your tank, but the price difference is one worth adjusting your patterns for these days. And, we assure you, our local gas retailers are not happy about the disparity between prices at all.
Is it high taxes on gasoline in Delaware that make the difference? No, Maryland’s rate is actually a bit more than Delaware’s. Price-gouging by gas retailers? No, it would be financial suicide to set one’s rates that high with competition a few miles away.
The problem lies in an extra fee that Delaware retailers pay for gasoline to be in compliance with the Clean Air Act. That made the average price per gallon 36 cents higher in Delaware than Maryland for the month of June. But here’s the rub: Sussex County complies with the standards established by the Clean Air Act. Therefore, Sussex County retailers do not, by federal order, need to pay the extra cost for the required reformulated gasoline.
In 1992, then-Gov. Mike Castle pushed through legislation that required Sussex County to follow the same rules mandated in Kent and New Castle counties. Fine and dandy. It couldn’t hurt to improve the air quality anywhere, right?
Well, since May, the average price per gallon for Delaware gas retailers has gone from about 10 cents per gallon higher than in Maryland to the aformentioned 36 cents. Well, now it is a problem.
We are in a unique area, in that we are very close to the Maryland border and that we are an area without significant public transportation — and we have many visitors who arrive here by cars. We are reliant on gasoline, and the temptation of driving into Maryland to buy gas is great.
We are asking Gov. Ruth Ann Minner to study this situation and determine that this is an economic emergency to some of our local businesses. In doing so, she could lift the requirements put down on Sussex County gas retailers, at least until the market for the reformulated gas corrects itself.
Only the governor can help this situation.