When I ask you what you see in this picture you would most like say "I see a gas pump". When you ask me what I see in this picture I would say "I see the slow death of rural Alaska."
The first gas barge of the shipping season has arrived and the price of fuel for the first shipment has been set. The price at the pump is now $7.25 a gallon.
The gas is stored at Crowley's tank farm that you can see in the lower right hand side of this picture. That means that even though the price of fuel was already raised with this first barge shipment, the chances are when the second fuel barge arrives the price will be raised again.
The price at the pump is always more than the price at which you can buy fuel in bulk directly from Crowley. Prior to this first shipment gas was $4.20 a gallon and heating oil was $4.33 a gallon for a minimum of 53 gallons purchased. Before the barge came the price at the pump was around $5.50 to $5.70 a gallon depending on which store you went to. After the barge arrived Crowley increased their bulk fuel price to $5.80 a gallon for gas and $6.09 for heating oil. So basically it's $305 for 53 gallon drum of gas BEFORE taxes. That same drum filled at the pumps at the store pictured would be $384.25.
In addition to the increased price of gas and the more devastating increase in price of heating fuel locally here in Kotzebue is the increase of fuel prices that is affecting all of the United States and particularly Alaska. That increase is being reflected in the cost of food here at the stores. As I stated in an earlier post milk is $10.49 a gallon. A "cheap" loaf of bread is almost $3, 5lbs of potatoes is $7.99. We eat a lot of subsistence foods around here but that all takes gas to go out and get, and no one eats only caribou, fish, and seal anymore.
When I really sit down and think about it, I fear for the future of rural Alaska. If the price of fuel keeps increasing people are not going to be able to afford to buy food and heat their houses. I don't know about anyone else, but I my pay scale is not increasing to match the increased cost of living. The poor are going to be the hardest hit first. If things continue the way they are there is going to be a mass exodus of low income people out of rural Alaska and into the more metro areas such as Fairbanks and Anchorage.....and those areas just aren't going to have the infrastructure to handle such an influx of people. A crisis is looming around the corner waiting for the first cold snap of winter to rear it's ugly head.