Since March, U.S. bases in Spain have had the cheapest gasoline and diesel available to U.S. forces in Europe. But that’s about to change.
For one reason or another — perhaps geographic isolation — Americans stationed in Spain by and large don’t know just how good they have it.
While prices at U.S. bases in other European countries climbed past $4 or even $5 a gallon in recent months, prices for mid-grade gas and diesel at the Navy Exchange service stations at U.S. Naval Station Rota and Morón Air Base have been a steady $3.349.
That price was locked in some seven months ago, when Americans stationed in Spain would rightly have lamented some of the highest prices paid by U.S. forces overseas. But that sentiment carries on today, even though prices there are relatively low. The next cheapest mid-grade gas available to Americans in Europe is at least $1 more expensive.
To be fair, most are unaware of skyrocketing prices in other parts of Europe.
Theresa D’Ambrosio, a library technician at Rota, was flabbergasted Wednesday when told of the prices her counterparts in Germany pay for fuel — anywhere from $4.29 to about $4.90 a gallon at the time.
"Wow. On a military base? Wow. My goodness," she said. When she heard that prices for some fuel in the Netherlands tops $5 a gallon — $5.40 for diesel — she only had one thing to say. "That’s outrageous."
That’s not to say American drivers in Spain haven’t been aware of rising fuel prices around the globe. Some had an inkling that prices at U.S. bases in other parts of Europe were on the uptick.
But now prices in Spain are about to march upward at an astounding rate that could put them on par with prices in Germany. That’s because the Navy Exchange service, which sells fuel at both bases, is about to see the prices it pays skyrocket $1.06 a gallon for gas and 92 cents a gallon for diesel, according to the Defense Energy Support Center, which negotiates the contracts for NEX’s fuel in Spain.
The price increases kick in July 1, and customers likely will suck up most — if not all — of them. Questions about the anticipated price spike sent Friday to the NEX press office in Virginia were not answered by deadline.
Even the gas station at Rota wasn’t aware Friday if prices were about to spike.
"We haven’t got the word yet," said John Adams, a Rota gas station worker.
He said the manager hasn’t said anything and no signs are posted warning of the price jump.
For many at the base, prices are already too high, as low as they’ve been.
"Well when you’re 40 years old and you paid less than a dollar at one time, yeah, to me [$3.35] is relatively high," said Ken Pollock, who works at Rota’s bowling alley.
Beginning July 1, NEX will be paying $4.19 a gallon for its gas and $3.65 for diesel — what it charges customers is another thing.
"I remember paying like 89 cents a gallon back in the day," laughed Jennifer Walton, who works at Rota’s teen center. "You know, a lot of people here have started biking or walking or doing other things. Mopeds are huge here because of gas prices."
Fortunately for Walton, she lives less than a two-minute walk from work.