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Opening Arguments

Gas pains

Every time there is a natural disaster -- even if it's not an "emergency" -- the economic morons start coming out of the woodwork:

Prices fluctuated from a low of at least $3.94 a gallon to a high of at least $4.39, and two New Castle gas stations reportedly advertised gasoline for as high as $4.99.

[. . .]

People calling the Indiana attorney general's gas-gouging hotline (866-241-9753) on Saturday heard the following recorded message:

"Thank you for calling the gas-gouging line. We want to let you know that we can only pursue gas gouging complaints when the governor declares a state of emergency. The governor has not yet declared a state of emergency, but we want to go ahead and collect your information. Please remain on the line for a representative, and thank you."

Jane Jankowski, a spokeswoman for Gov. Mitch Daniels, told The Star Press: "The governor has not declared an energy emergency. State law is specific about considerations for declaring an emergency, including an existing or projected shortfall of at least eight percent of motor fuel or of other energy sources. So in conjunction with the attorney general and others, we'll monitor the situation."

The economic illiterates include the press, helpfully providing a number for the gouging hotline, and the state, which includes a number of Republicans who should know better, who set up the "gouging emergency" nonsense in the first place. Gas stations work on even smaller profit margins than supermarkets and fast-food restaurants. They are able to achieve that margin by selling you gas today for a price that reflects what they have to pay for the gas they get to replace the gas they sell you. That price is set by thing such as worldwide demand, Mideast violence and the fear of diasters such as Huuricane Ike, which caused the temporary shutdown of 19 percent of America's refining capacity.