Idaho gas prices stay above average

Credit: Eric Turner/KTVB

Idaho gas prices stay above average

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by Bonnie Shelton

Bio | Email | Follow: @BonnieKTVB

KTVB.COM

Posted on November 4, 2013 at 5:16 AM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 5 at 4:11 AM

BOISE -- Before taxes, Idaho drivers are paying the most for gasoline in all of the continental United States.

According to AAA, the cost for a gallon of gas in Idaho has been above the national average for six months.

Nationwide, the average cost for a gallon of gas is $3.25. In Idaho, it's $3.45 and in Boise, it's $3.61 (GasBuddy.com).

"Idaho just happens to be 20 or 30 cents behind the times," said Dave Carlson, AAA Idaho Director of Public and Government Affairs.

AAA: GAS PRICES NOT NORMAL

Carlson told us sustaining such high prices for a prolonged period of time isn't normal. He added there are some market factors that can impact prices in the gem state, but right now things look good.

"Supplies are plentiful right now, driver demand is down," he said.

Carlson said when looking at the numbers, something doesn't add up. Idaho prices per gallon, although declining, have been above the national average since May. That's despite a nationwide drop in prices.

ARE GAS COMPANIES PRICE FIXING?

He also told us something else is going on.

"A little profit taking is going on in the marketplace," said Carlson.

Essentially, area gas station owners are setting a high price to help their bottom line.

"Somebody finally said, 'We're making some profit,'" said Carlson.

He's referring to a recent media report in which a local oil executive admitted recent pump profit margins have been higher.

The Attorney General's office often investigates gasoline prices in the state of Idaho. Deputy AG Brett DeLange said there's only one way to find out if gas station owners are profit taking.

"Ultimately, you need to go talk to the people charging it," said DeLange.

So, we tried contacting numerous Idaho gas station owners to get their side of the story. Some didn't return our calls and others declined to comment.

DeLange said setting a high price to make a profit isn't illegal.

"There's nothing wrong with making money," added DeLange.

What is illegal? Collusion.

"Price-fixing essentially. Where two or more competitors agree to fix a price," said DeLange. He wouldn't comment on any ongoing investigations into the practice.

Meanwhile, drivers told us the last few months of high prices have taken a toll.

"It's really a burden to try and figure out how much I need to save for gas," said Ken Stopczynski of Boise. "It's just something we have to deal with."

Not so fast--travel experts said there is something drivers can do to try and bring down prices.

"Show the guys that are holding back on the prices that you're willing to shop next door even if that means going across the street," said Dave Carlson.  "Prices are going to come down. Maybe we can just make it happen a little faster."

To find the cheapest prices in your area, click here.

The Attorney General's office told us there are other factors that could be contributing to Idaho's high gas prices. For example, Idaho is the only state in the west that doesn't have a refinery or an oil field.

That means our prices can trend higher than other states, but Brett DeLange said usually Idaho drivers see an ebb and flow.

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