Why are gas prices so high? - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Why are gas prices so high?

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By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

September 15, 2008

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Georgia has the highest average gas prices of anywhere in the Southeast and Albany's prices are higher than the state's average at $4.16.

On average AAA is showing a gallon of gas at $4.30 in Albany, although some south Georgia station's prices have been over five dollars.

Friday and this weekend's run on the stations have left many station's tanks dry. Today wholesalers provided us with invoices from Friday that show their costs jumped Friday morning to over five dollars a gallon. Some retailers say they're being unfairly targeted by those who say they're price gouging.

Sales Friday at the Citgo on Century Road in Lee County were $20,000, four times higher than any average Friday. They were one of the luck ones who had all grades of gasoline Monday, but they say public demand is what has driven up the price in Albany, not price gouging.

Dougherty County Sheriff's Deputies continue to check pumps and record their prices, they started checking for price gouging over the weekend, after the Governor declared a State of Emergency Friday evening.

Dougherty County Sheriff Jamil Saba said, "I think there's a lot of it. Yes, I sure do. I don't understand why they do this."

Georgia Law defines price gouging as "selling goods at a price higher than the price immediately prior to the declaration of a state of emergency. But that price may be increased only in an amount accurately reflecting the increase in their cost of goods to the business."

The key fact, that State of Emergency Declaration came at 7:00 Friday night. If a gas station increased their prices before that, that is not price gouging. And they can pass on the increase they are charged for gas by their suppliers.

Some stations are still out of several grades and not sure when their tanks might be filled again. Price gouging complaints have kept phone lines busy at the Governor's office of Consumer Affairs. WALB News 10 obtained invoices today from Lanier Oil Company, which shows they paid $5.55 a gallon Friday, including taxes. An increase they passed along to retailers, who passed it along to us.

Lanier has parked their trucks and have been told it will be Thursday night before they might get a gas delivery for Albany. Some retailers have suggested instead of politicians attacking retailers about price gouging, they remove the taxes to provide relief.

"There's a tremendous amount of tax on gas and if politicians really wanted to make instant relief why not lower the tax, that would help," said Steve Stocks of Stocks' Market & Shell Station.

Some retailers admitted driving up the price of their gasoline, but they say it was to try to offset demand, and keep some of gasoline in their tanks. When we questioned them about that being price gouging they said that would be for the Governor's office to decide.

AAA Auto Club South reports Georgia has the highest average gas prices in the Southeast, and that they have never seen price increases as steep as those this weekend.

AAA says the state average for regular gas Friday was $3.66. Today, it's $4.16. Albany's average is even higher than that at $4.30.

In their warning being sent to stations today, state officials are warning businesses they could be fined from two thousand dollars to $25,000 per violation, meaning each customer. Department of Agriculture inspectors are also taking data for price gouging investigations.

Dougherty County Sheriff Jamil Saba says his deputies will continue to monitor gas prices until the state of emergency is called off, and that he will report any possible violators.

 Saba said "We got to look after the people. This is their community. And I think the gas stations ought to look after the people themselves."

Many station tanks are near empty or they're out of gas and with power outages in Texas the pipeline that supplies product to Albany isn't sending product down the line. It could be mid week before many stations get their tanks filled and how much that may cost them, has yet to be determined.

Sunday, Citgo requested a million barrels of crude be delivered from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to its Lake Charles, Louisiana refinery which is one of two refineries operating within the Lake Charles, Port Arthur, Houston/Galveston regions. They hoped that might alleviate potential fuel shortages.

The Governor's Office of Consumer Affairs is asking Georgians to report violations of the price gouging laws.

Their phone numbers are 800-869-1123, or 404-651-8600. But they remind you to keep your receipts as proof of how much you paid for gas, and when.

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