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Screwed by Shell Oil


BlueOregon: Screwed by Shell Oil

3 May 2005

Kari Chisholm

Brent DeHart is a member of the Salem City Council, a former president of the state gasoline dealers’ association, and an independent dealer of Shell gasoline. And by all accounts, a pretty nice guy.

But all day today, Brent DeHart has been picketing another Shell gas station just three blocks from his place. Why? Because that Shell station – owned by corporate – is selling gas cheaper than Brent can buy it… from Shell.

That’s right: Shell is deliberately pricing their gas higher for him in order to drive him out of business.

Is this wrong? Well, sure. It’s predatory pricing designed to wipe players out of the marketplace. Is it bad for Oregon? You bet. Driving independent, locally-owned sellers out in favor of corporate-owned shops hurts our economy. Is it legal? Yup. Here in Oregon, we don’t have a law that outlaws below-cost selling – and everything Shell is up to is legal. (Mostly, anyway. They may be violating their contract with Brent, but fighting that battle won’t be worth the attorney’s fees.)

Of course, here’s the fun part: Brent is a conservative, pro-free-market Republican. Like most GOPers, he’s wary of government intervention in the marketplace. In an interview today with BlueOregon, he backpedaled fast when asked about whether the legislature ought to step in and outlaw the practice. “I’m not sure we need broad regulation…”

But now that he’s getting screwed by the free market, Brent DeHart wants a narrowly tailored regulation to protect his business. Cue Brent: “I can complete head to head with Big Oil if there’s a level playing field. Predatory gasoline pricing should be illegal. They shouldn’t be able to use their power to target individual stations.”

I couldn’t agree more. Nice to see a conservative free-market guy like Brent coming around.


3 May 2005

SALEM – In a last chance effort to save his business, Brent DeHart, co-owner of DeHart’s Mission Street Shell in Salem Oregon launched a website called to protest price discrimination policies. DeHart is also picketing a nearby corporate owned Shell station just down the street to call attention to his plight. The picket will begin on Monday May 2nd at 8:00 am on the corner of Mission and 25th Streets in Salem, Oregon.

When Texaco sold assets to Shell Oil, the Texaco station just down the street became another Shell station. Since then, DeHart maintains that Shell Oil has unfairly competed, and now targets his station, at 2220 Mission St. SE, by charging him more for fuel than other Shell stations in Salem. The Corporate-owned Shell down the street has sold to the public at the pump cheaper than it sold wholesale to its own dealer.

Unable to compete, DeHart has spent over a year trying to handle the issue himself and with his attorney.

They (Shell) won’t answer or talk to me or to my lawyer. We’ve tried for months. I’ve spent thousands of dollars on lawyers. They tell me I need a million dollars to fight Shell’s big corporate attorneys. I don’t have that kind of money. We are on the brink of losing everything.

One of the purposes of the website is to provide a way for other independent Shell station owners to share their frustrations about Shell Oil.

“We’ll be inviting dealers nationwide to sue our website to tell their stories,” says DeHart.

With gas prices higher than they have ever been and recently reported record profits by oil companies, consumers deserve to know if this kind of corporate treatment of independent dealers is related to the high gas prices they are paying at the pump.

Brent DeHart is a City Councilor, in Salem, and is a former President of the Oregon Gasoline Dealers Association. He served as the media spokesman for the Gasoline Dealers in Oregon, and as such, DeHart is frequently contacted by local media for information on gasoline price trends. and its sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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