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Axios reports on how "the number of gas stations has been in steady decline for decades," and the likelihood that a combination of factors - volatile prices, the growing popularity of electric vehicles -  "will squeeze them even further."

The story notes that "the fill-up industry is surprisingly unconsolidated. 80% of the gas bought in America is purchased from a franchised convenience store that's individually owned — even if it bears the brand name of a multinational."  That said, big box stores and supermarkets increasingly are using gas as a loss leader and promotional tool, which puts more pressure on the independents.

These independent gasoline retailers and convenience stores often find themselves buying weeks worth of fuel at one time.  At moments like these, when gas prices are going down, they end up selling fuel at close to cost or even lower, which does enormous damage to their bottom lines (though growing sales in the food and beverage category can protect at least some of their margins).

KC's View:

This trend is occurring at the same time a a half-dozen smaller California cities have decided to ban the building of new gas stations, with the premise being that such building represents an investment in technology facing obsolescence.  (Such a ban also is being suggested in Los Angeles, but isn't likely to be approved anytime soon.)

Internal combustion engines aren't going away anytime soon, but we're certainly pointed in that direction.  Smart public policy looks to the future, and I would think that it will make sense for many of these independent gas stations to start thinking about what their futures are going to look like too.  The one thing they do not want to do is stay in the buggy whip business for too long.