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Study: Gas retailers not to blame for price spike

BOISE – Gas retailers in Idaho did not charge consumers “exorbitant or excessive prices” and did nothing illegal when gas prices jumped 40 cents a gallon in September 2005, the state’s attorney general said.

The price increases were the result of Hurricane Katrina, which came ashore in late August, Lawrence Wasden said in a report released Friday.

In the aftermath of the hurricane, some 95 percent of the Gulf of Mexico’s oil output was out of service, according to the U.S. Minerals Management Service.

Key refineries and pipelines were knocked out of service, reducing fuel shipments to retailers.

“Hurricane Katrina’s impact on the Gulf Coast region’s petroleum infrastructure had a ripple effect on wholesale and retail prices throughout the country, including Idaho,” according to the report that followed a yearlong investigation.

Gas prices in August 2005 averaged $2.45 per gallon in the nation and $2.47 in Idaho, the Idaho Statesman reported.

After the hurricane, the nation’s gas prices in September averaged $2.86 per gallon. Idaho’s were $2.87.

In examining the reasons behind the price spike, investigators looked at average gross profit from gasoline retailers on both a quarterly and yearly basis, and concluded that “average weekly profit margins for gas retailers in the Boise and Pocatello markets during the last quarter of 2005 were not attributable to anticompetitive behavior or price manipulation by retailers.”

The report found that the amount gas retailers were charging in Southern Idaho was within reason when compared to prices charged nationally and in the region.

Wasden said the report did not investigate refiners or wholesalers, which he said is prohibited by state law.


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