A dose of Dan: Battle rising gas prices with help from Internet

Dan Francisco

Like other consumers, I’d like to openly complain about rising gas prices. It seems every year as we approach summer — or what analysts call the peak travel season — we’re facing another global crude oil crisis for whatever reason explained by the oil industry.

I’m not ignoring the genuine factors at work that have complicated our global oil supply and demand picture, I’m just pointing out that it seems awfully convenient that every spring we seemingly face a push to $4 a gallon gas prices, while oil companies continue to generate astonishing profits each year.

But instead of complaining about rising gas prices, I’d like to celebrate good, old-fashioned American business ingenuity and salute GasBuddy.com, an Internet business born out of the gas price uncertainty that has faced us for most of this decade.

The GasBuddy.com concept is relatively simple. It’s a group of local Websites that offer an online method for visitors to post and review recent gasoline prices at gas stations in there regional area. The Website was started in 2000 for consumers to freely share gas price information in their regional communities. Thousands of people have visited the site since, although the site was an unknown to me until I came across it researching news around the recent gas price spikes.

According to its Website, GasBuddy.com has grown into North America’s “premier fuel prices information source,” and its mission is to provide consumers with a real-time gas prices forum to access the lowest price fuel options in their region. In California, you can access the site at californiagasprices.com.

Putting in my El Dorado Hills Zip Code this past week, the site only lists four sites in our area under $4 a gallon for regular unleaded gas. The sites include Costco and Sam’s Club in Folsom at $3.72 and $3.77 a gallon and ARCO and 76 stations in Folsom at $3.91 and $3.95 a gallon.

Like other Internet applications, the secret to GasBuddy.com is public participation. The service is a free one that depends on users to input gas prices daily from their local stations to keep prices up to date and keep area residents best informed on where to buy the least expensive gas. In some cases, GasBuddy.com reports gas prices may vary as much as 20 percent at stations only a few blocks from each other. The service is about consumers helping inform fellow consumers.

I have represented dozens of companies on the public relations front over the years and promoted their products, and I love examples of companies working to make lemonade out of lemons such as GasBuddy.com. While we don’t work with the company, it’s an example of a company that embodies the spirit of the Internet and the new economy born from it.

Rising gas prices is an issue that affects all of us, there is no denying that. But instead of hiding under a rock and suffering through it, GasBuddy.com created a business to tackle the issue — on behalf of consumers no less. That’s the kind of fighting spirit that America has always been known to possess, and it’s encouraging to see that spirit live on.

Dan Francisco is an El Dorado Hills-based public relations consultant to the high-tech industry. 

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Posted by on Mar 2 2012.
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