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Pipeline would break monopoly, provide consumer choice
Patrick Parker
Patrick Parker is president of The Parker Companies, a St. Simons Island-based company that has a chain of convenience stores and gas stations in Hinesville, Darien, Brunswick, St. Simons Island, Surrency and Sterling. - photo by Photo provided.

Competition is desirable in today’s oil and gas market because it lowers prices and offers more choices at the pump.

Our focus is always on doing what’s best for the consumer. We want to offer the lowest gas prices to our customers, helping them save money at the pump and keep more cash in their wallet. Across the country, the demand for oil and gas pipelines is enormous.

Pipelines have historically been the safest, most secure, most reliable, most economical way to meet our nation’s growing energy needs. By contrast, the risks involved in delivering gasoline by truck and rail are significant, including the deaths of drivers, dangerous road conditions and negative environmental impacts.  The risks of shipping gas by ship and offloading to a waterborne terminal are far greater than coming in by interstitial piping that is underground.

Shipping gas by truck or by rail is hardly an environmentally friendly option because of the tremendous need for fossil fuels and the carbon emissions involved in transporting gas over land. It’s a remarkably inefficient process because a single truck of gas driving from the terminal in North Augusta, South Carolina, or Macon to Brunswick takes approximately eight hours to load and return. Given the frequent bottlenecks that occur at the terminals, this round trip can, in fact, take significantly longer.

Kinder Morgan, the largest independent transporter of petroleum products in North America, transports approximately 2.3 million barrels of oil per day across the U.S., mostly through a network of pipelines and terminals. The company emphasizes safety and is vigilant about monitoring environmental conditions in and around pipelines.

Kinder Morgan is willing to invest millions of dollars to build 360 miles of pipeline from Belton, South Carolina, to Jacksonville, Florida. This much-needed pipeline will have tremendous benefits to coastal Georgia residents, from lower gas prices to safer roadways. Pipelines currently serve every major city in Georgia with the exception of Savannah and Brunswick.

Why are fuel prices higher here than in other parts of the Southeast? The reality is that Colonial Oil, who is vigorously opposing the pipeline, has supplied virtually all the fuel to the Coastal Empire for many years, and the wholesale cost out of their terminal in Savannah has historically been much higher than the wholesale prices in North Augusta or Macon. The cost of trucking gas and diesel from North Augusta or Macon adds an additional cost of 6 or 7 cents per gallon. That cost is currently passed on to the consumer, making gas more expensive here in the Golden Isles than in the rest of the state.

When convenience stores and petroleum suppliers are forced to buy gas from a company with a near­ monopoly on the local market, the base cost goes up, which means consumers have to pay more at the pump. One thing is certain: The consumer wins when there is more competition in the marketplace. We need more choices to help keep prices down and to keep the market competitive.

Another reason gas prices tend to be higher in the Savannah area is due to the Jones Act, which was originally passed in 1920 by isolationist lawmakers. Designed to protect the nation’s shipping  industry from foreign competition, this federal  law mandates that only U.S.-made, U.S.-flagged ships can deliver goods between American ports.

For years, U.S. energy companies have been squeezed by the Jones Act as they try to deliver  record amounts  of oil nationwide. According to MJLF & Associates, a major shipping-brokerage company, there are only 32 tankers and 42 barges eligible under the Jones Act to transport fuel along the U.S. Gulf Coast  and East Coast, making the need for a pipeline even more urgent in the Coastal Empire. Water terminals are especially vulnerable  to storms and hurricanes, causing  huge fluctuations in prices.

As someone who lives, works and raises a family  here a safe healthy environment is a huge concern. As long as adequate steps are taken to minimize the pipeline’s environmental impact and to ensure its long-term  safety, this strategic solution  to the Coastal Empire’s energy needs is worthy of serious consideration. In the end, the proposed  Palmetto Pipeline  will lower prices and expand options at the pump, creating a win-win situation  for consumers across the region.

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