Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Note: While we'll never get a handle on global warming and smog as long as we continue to be tied to cars and oil as the main way to get around, until that changes it's good to see an independent oil firm push for more competition. While oil companies over the last 20 years have been closing gas stations despite the huge growth in the number of cars in the USA, all the while buying each other and concentrating control of the remaining gas stations in the hands of 5 big corporations, one independent is opening new gas stations...

Valero steps on the gas in state

The company's service station growth pace has been speedy since entering the California market in 2000.

By Elizabeth Douglass, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

January 7, 2008 Three gas stations vie for customers along Interstate 5 in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, but Cheryl Ahern-Lehmann usually bypasses the Chevron and Arco in favor of a station she once spurned as too pricey.

That station in north San Diego County, a Texaco for years, won her business after n Antonio-based Valero, which began gasoline operations in California in 2000, now owns two of the state's 14 fuel-making refineries and displays its brand on 921 service stations out of a statewide total of around 9,400. In the last three years, the company has added nearly 300 Valero locations to its California roster.

Valero's quiet expansion, which has continued apace across the country as well, represents an unusually speedy entry for a new brand. The company's push is all the more unusual because it comes as many major oil companies shed dealers, sell off stations to wholesalers and concentrate on larger, high-volume locations known as "super-pumpers."

"All the major brands have indicated that they really don't want any more gas stations . . . and they're terrified of cost cutting by companies like Costco and Wal-Mart," said Charles Langley, gasoline project manager at the Utility Consumers' Action Network, a San Diego-based watchdog group. Of Valero, he said, "they're the only brand that I see that actually seems to be growing and is aggressive about growing."

Since 2000, Valero has gone from an industry footnote to the largest refiner in North America, with 17 plants from California to Aruba in the Caribbean. The company supplies 5,800 gas stations in 38 states using the Valero, Diamond Shamrock, Shamrock, Ultramar and Beacon brands. Most of the sites are owned and operated by individual dealers and distributors instead of by Valero.

for rest of story: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-valero7jan07,1,5037050.story?page=1&ctrack=1&cset=true&coll=la-headlines-business

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