Our Northwest

Gas war spreads in Pierce County

Friday, November 1, 2013by  Jon Osterberg

Here’s an uncommon term from the past, seen in the news this week: gas war.
   Gasoline stations in the Bonney Lake-Parkland-Spanaway area have dropped prices recently, undercutting each other to lure customers. The Tacoma News Tribune reported Oct. 29 that gas was selling for under $3 per gallon locally, including a low of $2.97 at a Fred Meyer store in Bonney Lake. Read the article.
   On Halloween, TacomaGasPrices.com reported gas was selling for just $2.89 at the Graham Safeway.
   Baby boomers fondly remember gas wars, when stations would vie with competitors across the street by lowering prices. In the 1960s, where busy intersections often had a gas station on each corner, it wasn’t uncommon to see prices plummet to 25.9¢ for a gallon of regular.
   Of course, some stations upped the ante even further by offering free tumblers with each fill-up, as well as S&H Green Stamps (a once-popular rewards program).
   Gas wars might continue in America today, but I don’t personally recall seeing – and benefiting – from one since October 1973. While in route to a Halloween costume party, I remember filling up my old Chevy Impala at a Union 76 station in Bellevue for just 32.9¢ a gallon. Within days, prices jumped for good as supply and demand suffered because of the Arab Oil Embargo.
   Although the embargo ended in spring 1974, prices remained high. I was appalled to pay a lofty 49.9¢ while on a road trip to Tucson in June 1974. The drive down took a long time: the 1974 Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act prohibited speed limits above 55 mph. In fact, in Olympia, state officials had dropped Washington’s speed limit even lower the previous November, to just 50 mph.
   Check out these vintage gas stations in Portland and Gladstone, Ore., and Zillah, Wash., from the bygone era of gas wars. And here’s an old gasoline brand with a familiar name.

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