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Idaho Attorney General numbers suggest gas stations are making record profits

Idaho gas stations are making record profit margins, according to numbers from the Idaho Attorney General's Office.

BOISE, Idaho — For the first time in more than a month, Idaho drivers can expect to pay less than $5 for a regular gallon of gas.

The state average dropped below $5 Wednesday, according to AAA Idaho. However, Idaho's average is still nearly 70 cents above the national average.

Idaho Deputy Attorney General Brett DeLang serves as the Consumer Protection Division Chief. For the last 14 years, his office has tracked the average gas price in Idaho. They also track the profit margin retail gas stations make per gallon.

"Idaho's retail price is almost always in the top 10 for being most expensive. That's not something new," DeLang said. "What we're seeing indicates the wholesale price is dropping, but the retail price hasn't followed."

KTVB received DeLang's numbers through a public records request, which show the average Idaho gas station lost nearly 9 cents a gallon the first week of June. However, the price of a wholesale gallon has dropped roughly 49 cents since then.

Retail prices have not reflected the price drop proportionately.

"We have never seen 67 cents before as a statewide margin average," DeLang said. "The average is somewhere between 10-to-20 cents a gallon. What you're seeing right now is 3 times the average."

However, Jacksons Food Stores CEO John Jackson disagrees with the AG's office. Most gas stations profit 50 cents per gallon out of necessity, according to Jackson.

"The 20-cent number you've been quoted by the AG is [wrong]," Jackson said. "I would like to see him run our business on 20 cents. He would go broke. I guarantee it."

Jackson says his profits were down 57% in June and while he's making more money at the pump in July, it's the items sold inside the store that keep Jackson's profitable.

As retail prices drop, Jackson drops his price in a similar proportion, he said. However, there is a delay on reflecting wholesale price drops.

Jackson has to sell the gas in his tanks for what he bought it for - not what the wholesale price reflects in the moment.

"You know this is a very competitive industry. What other business can you think of that has a price sign on every single site they operate on? It's very visible what our price is and what the competition is," Jackson said. "If you're too high, your volume dries up. It's extremely competitive."

The AG's office and Jackson don't see eye to eye, however, they agree margins are even higher outside the Gem State.

DeLang notices rising profit margins particularly in the west.

"We're cheaper than Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, and Arizona," Jackson said. "We do business in all those states and we know what the prices are and we're significantly lower. And their margins are higher. They're always higher."

The AG's office can't legally do anything today to regulate the price of fuel at pump, according to DeLang. He adds consumer behavior is half the equation in a free market to decide the price of goods.

"If the market will bear it, they'll probably charge it," DeLang said. "We need to maybe do a better job of shopping around for the lowest price to encourage some price competition."

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