Editorial: Pain at the Pump

Fuel frustration abounds in our region.

Last Friday, prices rose  a dollar a gallon or more overnight at some places, hitting $5.29 a gallon outside Dothan, $4.70 a gallon in Prattville and $4.65 a gallon in Luverne.

In some cases, the gas being sold was at the pump before pipelines were shut down in the Gulf due to Hurricane Ike, making people even angrier at being gouged.

Shortage concerns led to a run on gas that left many pumps empty and some places only selling premium at higher costs.

Meantime, the price of a barrel of oil dropped below $100 for the first time since spring.

This is America and businesses can charge what they want for their goods.

But state law prohibits "unconscionable pricing" of items for sale or rent when the governor declares a state of emergency.

The parameters of declaring a state of emergency are limited to a natural disaster of major proportions impacting Alabama, a public health emergency or an attack or anticipated attack on the United States.

South Carolina's attorney general was able to invoke their price gouging law when the President declared a state of emergency in Louisiana and Texas due to hurricane Ike.

Our governor had to wait until the U.S. Department of Energy said energy shortages would likely occur ...to declare a state of emergency here, citing a public health emergency as the reason.

Our legislators should consider adding "an abnormal disruption of the market" in another part of the country that affects our market to the triggers for invoking our price gouging law so next time action can be taken immediately here when the President declares a state of emergency.

Then we won't be blindsided at the pump.