Lukoil may be cheaper, but isn’t Ukraine’s freedom worth more?

The high sign on half a dozen fuel pumps reads LUKOIL in large red letters. But if any customer knew that it was the name of Russia’s second largest oil company, they wouldn’t stay away from this Brooklyn service station.

What baffled customers was the black numbers under the LUKOIL sign announcing that regular gasoline here would cost $3.95 a gallon early Monday. Surrounding stations charge up to $4.29.

The price is determined by Lukoil, the company that applied this marketing strategy long before that Vladimir Putin Invades Ukraine. The pull of a few cents a gallon will probably still be enough to keep customers coming unless it continues barbarians in Ukraine led New York to revoke the licenses of three of the city’s Lukoil brands. The Newark, New Jersey City Council voted to close three dozen Lukoil stations there.

The sole Brooklyn franchise co-owner, Vinnie Lasorsa, told the Daily Beast that his station had received a few nasty phone calls about its Russia connection. He and his partner are immigrants and he has a standard response.

“We are Italian and both American,” he said.

He added that the gas they sell comes from US refineries like those sold by other brands in the region. The price difference caused a steady stream of cars to come to his pump and no one could hear who was talking about. Putin or Ukraine.

He lost some of that advantage in the afternoon, when Lukoil informed him that fuel deliveries scheduled for the end of the day would come with a 30 cents/gallon increase. Lasorsa wrote the new prices on a blank sheet of paper and instructed an employee named Ali to enter them into the office computer.


A worker at a Lukoil station changes the price at the pump.

Michael Daly / The Daily Beast

Even as Ali entered a new number with his index finger extended, a small television on the wall played separate screen footage of the war in Ukraine and of White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. She said that President Biden was not ready to go with a ban on Russian oil, which accounts for about 8% of our total liquid fuel imports.

“No decisions have been made at this time,” Psaki said. “I would note that what the president is most focused on is making sure we continue to take steps to address the punitive economic consequences while taking all necessary actions to limit the impact. of gas pump prices.”

Such an embargo is supported by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members of Congress from both parties, who believe that a tyrant’s moral stance against the slaughter of innocents deserves the extra. few cents for a gallon of gas. Can we not sacrifice even a little in a real fight for freedom?

At Brooklyn Lukoil, Ali continues to raise prices for fuel that is not more like Russia than it is sold at other pumps in the US. One difference is that all of the station’s proceeds will go to Lukoil, which will then pay Lasorsa and his partner a commission.

That’s exactly the arrangement the partners had when it was a Getty Station. After Getty was acquired by Lukoil in 1981, Lasorsa and his partner continued to work.

“I am 71 years old and still pumping gas,” he said.

Lasorsa briefly shuts down the station while Ali completes entering the price increase in the calculator and shifts the numbers above the pump and below the large LUKOIL sign.

The station was still not ready to reopen when Lasorsa made an exception for a longtime customer working in a nursing home. Following her was a nurse on duty named Ottawi Gibbons, who pulled up in a red pickup with a child in the back.

“Can I get $3.95?” she asked.

She was a few minutes late. Lasorsa said the price was out of his control and had been entered into the computer.

One consolation is that she was able to sit in the car while paying a higher price. This is a station where you don’t need to pump gas yourself.

“The only place in Brooklyn,” Lasorsa said.

In the meantime, Gibbons was asked by The Daily Beast if the war in Ukraine made her hesitant to patronize a Lukoil station.

“I am a nurse,” she said. “I work with the Russians.”

She was asked about her thoughts on the conflict.

“Why are they fighting?” she wondered aloud.

She was told that Putin had invaded Ukraine.

“So it’s about power,” she said.

Lasorsa finished putting 5.8 gallons in his car for $25.

“I will have to start walking,” she said.

She drove away and the next car went to the gas pump and the gas was still a few cents cheaper. Lasorsa said he expects stations around the vicinity — Mobil, Shell, BP — to conduct new surges of their own. And the black numbers will continue to be a big draw despite the big LUKOIL sign. Lukoil may be cheaper, but isn’t Ukraine’s freedom worth more?

Russell Falcon

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