Idaho gas prices were 'schizophrenic' in 2013, says AAA

adutton@idahostatesman.comJanuary 7, 2014 

Gas prices for Idaho drivers were all over the place in 2013, and the fluctuations didn't seem related to the usual forces that drive gas prices, according to AAA Idaho.

"Idaho pump prices suffered a certain schizophrenia or detachment from marketplace reality in 2013," said Dave Carlson, public affairs director for the automobile group.

Idahoans paid less for gas than they did in 2012. But they paid more than the U.S. average — sometimes a lot more.

The Statesman reported Oct. 24 that Idaho drivers paid more per gallon, before taxes, than drivers in any other state in the continental U.S. Gas stations were making a profit from those sales, the report said.

The average price Oct. 24 was $3.58 per gallon in Idaho. By the end of November, that fell to $3.22.

"All of a sudden, Idaho was one of the states with the highest price drops," Carlson said.

The reason for the extremes is unclear, Carlson said. He noted there were no major run-ups in oil prices, no constricted oil-supply lines or geopolitical crises and no major hurricanes to affect prices.

"Idahoans had reason to be frustrated and angry at times throughout 2013," Carlson said.

The group speculated regional refinery production may have put more price pressure on Idaho gas prices, which were among the nation's most expensive for months.

"There's no law against high prices," said Brett DeLange, chief of the Idaho Attorney General's consumer protection department. "That doesn't mean we like it, there's just no law against it."

Unless there is a declared state of emergency, price-gouging is legal, DeLange said, adding that his office tracks gas prices to make sure businesses aren't price-fixing, which is against the law.

DeLange noted that, without counting taxes, Idaho shifted during the past few months from most expensive to least expensive place in the continental U.S. to buy a gallon of gas.

AAA says gas prices should average slightly less in 2014 as refineries add capacity and rely on more North American crude oil.

Audrey Dutton: 377-6448, @IDS_Audrey

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