N.C. gas priciest in the lower 48 states

Suddenly, North Carolina has the priciest gasoline in the lower 48 states.

Tar Heel motorists were paying an average $3.794 per gallon of regular Tuesday. That's 31 cents more than the national average -- and higher than in any other state this side of Alaska and Hawaii.

Industry and government officials say Hurricane Ike is still to blame.

Nearly a month after Ike shut down the Gulf refineries that supply 85 percent of North Carolina's gas, the pipelines are running again at full throttle. But supplies are still short at hundreds of gas stations from the Triangle to the mountains.

Triangle motorists were paying an average $3.841 Tuesday, and some stations were out of premium. Gas is more plentiful in eastern counties -- thanks in part to extra deliveries by sea at the Wilmington port. Some Wilmington stations posted prices Monday below $3.40.

Mike Stater of Clayton wondered why Triangle motorists were paying so much more.

"At the $90 per barrel price for crude, shouldn't [gas] prices be back down in the ranges they were a year ago?" said Stater, 60. "Sounds like some gouging going on to me."

North Carolina motorists first accused retailers of overcharging when prices surged in mid-September. In response, the Attorney General's Office asked some gas stations to provide financial records. A spokeswoman declined Tuesday to comment on whether the investigation has turned up evidence of price gouging.

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