Gasoline price scams hit consumers

Gasoline prices seem to rise and fall for no apparent reason and most Americans simply blame the price of gasoline on foreign oil prices, specifically blaming the Arab oil producers. But the truth is, the prices are manipulated right here in the West by the oil companies, driven only by greed

By Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

We get so used to blaming foreigners for our troubles that we often fail to see the truth.

For example, the price of gasoline and oil is frequently turned into a xenophobia.

The truth is the biggest oil and gasoline scam starts right here in this country with gasoline dealers who fix the price of gasoline without repercussion.

Gasoline comes in three forms, 87 Octane (Leaded), 89 Octane and 91-93 Octane (Super Premium). Octane has to do with the engine’s ability to avoid “knocking.” Newer engines employ a system that requires a higher octane.

You can’t use 87 Octane in a high performance vehicle, or in most cars, unless you want to hear that “knock” as your engine burns inefficiently.

These Octane ratings allow gas stations to play a shell game with consumers. For example, how often have you heard the TV News report that “The price of Gasoline is at an all time low.”

The higher the Octane, the higher the cost. It has to do with the chemicals in the gasoline, supposedly intended to make your high efficiency car run better. You can’t put unleaded in a car that requires leaded gasoline, but you don’t have to buy the highest premium gasoline for your car either.

As recent as 15 years ago, the price difference between Octane gasoline choices was only 10 cents. But when the Deepwater Horizon exploded in 2010, BP increased its gasoline to cover the fines and cleanup costs.


GASOLINE SHORTAGE - (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

BP originally was branded by its company name, British Petroleum. At the end of the millennium, they bought up AMOCO, the American Oil Company, and promised not to fire the Americans, a promise they broke.

They changed their branding to “Beyond Petroleum,” not wanting to be seen as “foreign.” They figured correctly most Americans are stupid enough to by any high-priced PR spin. You spend enough money on PR and you can make anything “bad” look “good.”

BP increased their prices to a 20 cent spread between grades. Since the only grade the media cares about is the unleaded price, it made BP look competitive, while charging far more for the higher two premium grades. The other gasoline companies quickly followed suit.

It went over without as much as a burp from American (dumb) consumers and last year, the American oil industry increased their prices to a 30 cent spread in grade. In other words, the 89 Octane (mid-premium) was 30 cents higher than the lowest unleaded price, and the 91-93 Octane jumped 60 cents above the lowest unleaded Octane.

That’s an amazing shell game (no pun intended) to artificially increase the price of gasoline, while allowing the media – which receives big ads from the oil companies – to continue to mislead the public by referring only to the lowest Unleaded Octane in their news reports.

The truth is, most people do not need the higher priced 91-93 Octane grade. It’s a vanity, and a stupid one at that. Most cars only need mid grade Octane.

You put in a few chemicals, add a media spin about how the higher the grade the “cleaner the air” – not true, of course. And suddenly you can get 60 cents more for each gallon of gasoline that you purchase.

And if you don’t like it, the gasoline companies are more than willing to spend more money on PR, and reinforce the lie that the fault is with “the Arabs.”

(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and columnist. Reach him at [email protected].)

Ray Hanania

Blogger, Columnist at Illinois News Network Online
Ray Hanania is senior blogger for the Illinois News Network news site. He is an award winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist who covered the beat from 1976 through 1992 (From Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley). And, Hanania is a stubborn and loud critic of the biased mainstream American news media.

Hanania covered Chicago political beats including Chicago City Hall while at the Daily Southtown Newspapers (1976-1985) and later for the Chicago Sun-Times (1985-1992). He published The Villager Community Newspapers covering 12 Southwest suburban regions (1993-1997). Hanania also hosted live political news radio talkshows on WLS AM (1980 - 1991), and also on WBBM FM, WLUP FM, WSBC AM in Chicago, and WNZK AM in Detroit.

The recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, Hanania was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. Hananiaalso received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

Hanania’s columns are published by the Illinois News Network every week. You can reprint his columns with full credit to the author, using the shirttail and without content edits. Hanania is also President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C. His personal website is, and Email him at: [email protected]