"I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad."
A resident called me this week to talk about local gas prices in Frankfort and Mokena. He wasn't simply upset about the see-saw nature of prices but also how high the cost of filling up a tank has become compared to nearby communities, such as Monee, Manhattan and Manteno.
To his mind, this was a clear case of oil companies gouging Frankfort and other Lincoln-Way area residents.
This man's call reminded me of a similar email I received about the exact time last year, asking why there was such a discrepancy in prices in the Southland. That email led to a story looking at how local gas prices are set. Although it shed some light on the process, it certainly didn't satisfy some readers, who also push the price gouging button.
Unfortunately, that's just not the case, according to the State of Illinois. In fact, even Springfield struggles with the fine line between gouging and volatility. This is from the state's website on gas price monitoring:
Price gouging is difficult to define, but many people believe that they know it when they see it at the gasoline pump. Volatility in gasoline prices (e.g. up ten cents one day and down three cents two days later) coupled with an overall upward trend in crude oil prices can put consumers and government agencies on the alert for signs of price gouging. To avoid interference in the proper functioning of the market however, care must be exercised in sorting out opportunistic price gouging from normal (i.e. legal) price volatility.
So if there's no legal recourse, what's the answer? Have Lincoln-Way residents reached their Howard Beale moment? If you've watched the fantastic, satirical Network, then you'll recall Beale (played with Oscar-winning bravura by the late Peter Finch) and his impassioned plea to viewers upset with what they're being fed through TV to scream from their windows, "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" (I've included that clip of the film in this file, which is slightly NSFW because of a bit of off-color language. But if you haven't seen the movie, you should remedy that as soon as possible. It's one of the classics of American cinema.)
"All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad!"
In May, New Lenox Mayor Tim Baldermann recently told his village residents to go elsewhere to fill up unless New Lenox stations changed their tunes. Should L-W mayors band together to tell their constituents to fulfill their fuel needs in other communities? Or is that a futile effort if it exhausts half of a tank of gas just to get to their cheapest pump?
That's why I'm putting the question to you: What can—or should—the members of Lincoln-Way communities do to send a message to gas companies? Share your ideas in the comments section, and I will gather some of the most interesting suggestions for a future notebook to see what other readers think about them.
Think of this as your Howard Beale moment, and this is the window to tell everyone you're mad as hell and you're not going to take it anymore!
Editor's note: Non-indented, italicized quotes are from the screenplay from Network (1976), written by Paddy Chayefsky.
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