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Encino Gas Station Owner Laments Dwindling Profits, 'Angry' Public

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — If the recent surge in gas prices is killing your budget, imagine what business must be like for those who are trying to sell the stuff.

Andre Van der Valk, who operates four local gas stations including a Shell station at the corner of Ventura Boulevard and Lindley Avenue in Encino, told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO he has seen his profits dwindle as prices continue to climb increasingly higher.

"Just the credit card fees on that transaction is 15 cents a gallon," said Van der Valk. "So when you get an increase of 25 cent this week, plus another 15 cents on top of that, there's an additional at least 6 cents a gallon in credit card fees, you're looking just this week alone at 30 cent increases."

Drivers on Friday saw the average price for a gallon of gas in the L.A.-Long Beach area spike to $4.25 a gallon — up six cents from Thursday and 25 cents from a week ago.

And while the prices push costs higher for operators like Van der Valk, he said somebody's always looking for a cheaper price.

"There's competition out there, and we're all striving for that same gallon of gasoline that the consumer is buying less of in this day and age," he said.

Van der Valk said many operators have seen their profit margins dip from around 15 cents a gallon to 10 cents a gallon or more.

While some analysts have pointed to the tumbling value of the U.S. dollar as a major factor behind the recent surge in gas prices, Van der Valk pointed to the often-competing agendas of oil and gas companies, refineries, and Wall Street speculators.

"You've got those three components working right now, and that's why you're seeing something that has no reason," he said.

Between the shrinking profits, a volatile geopolitical climate and an unsympathetic consumer perception, Van der Valk said it's a "lousy time" to be in the gas business.

"You've got a public that's buying less, and a public that's quite frankly angry," he said.

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