May, 2011

The Problem with Price Gouging Laws

Is optimal pricing during an emergency unethical?
  • Michael Giberson

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The summer of 2008 challenged gasoline retailers. Crude oil prices had climbed to unprecedented heights over the first half of the year, peaking in July before tumbling sharply afterward. Partly in response to the high prices, crude oil and petroleum product inventories were at unusually low levels as the hurricane season began. In late August, Hurricane Gustav tore through the middle of the oil-producing region in the Gulf of Mexico. More than 95 percent of offshore oil and gas platforms were shut down before the storm arrived. Less than two weeks after Gustav, Hurricane Ike threatened another direct hit to the Gulf region’s energy production facilities...

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