Gas pumps with prices below $2?
There are still some of them out there, but not for a gallon of gas -and not for long.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture announced yesterday that there are an estimated 150 filling stations statewide, mostly at independent stations in rural areas, whose obsolete pumps aren't capable of displaying prices above $2.999 per gallon.
The state intends to grant a 30-day waiver that will allow those stations to use "half prices" to be dialed in on the pump. That means that if a station intends to charge $3 a gallon, for example, the price shown on the pump will be $1.50. The customer would still have to pay twice the posted price.
Stations with half prices on the pumps will be required to post signs at the pumps alerting customers that the price is only half the actual charge. Any large signs along the road would have to state the full price per gallon.
The waiver is only good for 30 days. Within that time, dealers must install an upgrade kit for their pumps so that they reflect the accurate price. Most gasoline pumps today have programmable electronic displays.
The state agriculture department doesn't know exactly how many gasoline stations will be displaying half-prices under the waiver. Spokesman LeeAnne Mizer said the estimate of 150 is an educated guess by the staff at the department's weights and measures division.
Similar half-price postings occurred across the U.S. during the 1970s when the Arab oil embargo sent gasoline over $1 per gallon for the first time, overwhelming gasoline pumps that were equipped to display prices only up to 99.9 cents per gallon.
Clarence Haas, the proprietor of Haas's Service Station in Stony Ridge, said yesterday he didn't know whether the old dial-style pumps at his Wood County station would go over $3 per gallon because he hadn't raised his price yet.
Yesterday afternoon, Mr. Haas was still asking $2.619 per gallon - nearly 50 cents below the prevailing price at most Toledo-area stations for regular unleaded. However, he said he expected to find out about his pumps' pricing capability this morning when the arrival of his station's next fuel delivery will require that his price rises accordingly.
"I don't sell a lot of gas," Mr. Haas said. "Most of my business is service and repairs."