Gas war-- Version 2008

People around my age-- let's be kind and call them late-stage baby boomers-- and definitely those who are older may recall a phenomenon from their misspent youth or further back in their carefree childhood: The Gas War.

Back when "service stations" (how quaint a description is that?) gave away embossed drinking glasses and other consumer detritus to lure customers in to tank up, proprietors sometimes sought to drum up sales a tad more dramatically by engaging in a little friendly price war with neighboring stations. Suddenly, gas wasn't 30 cents a gallon, it was 29, then 28 and oh my gosh, weren't those the good old days for anyone with wheels to take them places?


Signs from a long-ago gas war in Lincoln, ME

I know it's not nearly the same thing but now in this summer of our discontent made ugly winter by this fuel crisis, I say we can take heart in a wonder of the wonderful worldwide web: a feature on the MSN Autos site that pulls up retail gas prices by zip code!

Yes, this will be of little use to centrally fueled fleets but it may come in handy for anyone managing a fleet, especially of gas jobs, who does not have a fuel card or other such program in place to secure discount pricing. Regardless, it should be of great service to anyone out there seeking to gas up a personal vehicle for as little as possible without wasting gas by riding around looking for the lowest price.

Before I forget, a tip of the editorial eyeshade to my pal Alicia Hinds, who alerted me to this site via an email she sent out this morning to a group of friends.

OK, on to the details: Once you get to the MSN page hosting the Local Gas Prices feature, you scroll down just a bit and plug in any zip code.

And presto, up pops a map and a nice long list of stations with their addresses and the retail price posted for each grade of gasoline as well as diesel that they sell. It could not be any easier and judging by the couple of stations I passed on the way into work today and the prices reported for my home zip code, it is accurate.

According to the site, every night MSN Autos receives pricing data compiled by the Oil Price Information Service (OPIS) from over 90,000 gas stations. One thing I found interesting was, at least in the case of my home zip, was that the results-- 29 of them-- were fantastic but they actually spilled into several neighboring zip codes although all stations were a short drive from each other.

So, party like it's 1968 (click below for how) and find yourself if not cheap gas, at least the cheapest gas!