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Prices Still Painful at Idaho Pumps

July 30, 2008

By Sean Breslin, The Times-News, Twin Falls, Idaho

Jul. 30–If gas prices seem to be taking their sweet time dropping below $4 a gallon, you’re probably in Idaho.

While the average national price of gasoline has been steadily dropping for the past two weeks, local prices at the pump have barely registered any change.

The national average is now $3.94, compared to Idaho’s average of $4.14, said Dave Carlson, director of public and government affairs at AAA Idaho.

“This may be a very short-term phenomenon,” Carlson said.

Usually, Idaho gas prices are pretty consistent with national trends, but over the past two weeks there’s been a bit of a disconnect. Carlson said there coule be several reasons, from refiners and wholesalers holding prices up to profit off the inventory of products they still have, to differences in supply and demand in Idaho and the Intermountain West. But Carlson stressed that he couldn’t pinpoint the exact cause of the price disparity.

“There’s so many reasons, I can’t stand on any one,” he said. “We don’t have a crystal ball.”

But Troy Willie, CEO of Oasis Stop ‘N Go stores, said that Idaho prices aren’t always in line with national prices.

“If you look at the five- and 10-year trends, that’s often not the case,” Willie said. Like Carlson, he said the competitive nature of sales and supply factors don’t readily yield easy answers on gas prices.

“We buy at a wholesale cost, and that cost certainly has decreased,” Willie said, “but not enough to keep up with that national average.”

Oasis buys gas from wholesaler Jackson Oil in Boise. Jackson president Tony Stone said that the hold up on prices right now is refiners in Utah. He said inland refiners are usually slower to react to price changes than those in coastal areas, though he said he expects the prices to start dropping soon.

“I think you’ll start seeing things happen,” Stone said. “With crude prices going down, it’s inevitable, they have to.”

Sean Breslin may be reached at sbreslin@magicvalley.com.

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