... to the notion of ''gouging'', but not directly in response to your post Bill. I didn't want to start yet another gas price thread so I thought I would add some comments on pricing and gouging here.
First, MOST stations are independent entities, some of which sell a name brand of ''Big Oil''. Too many people are blaming the oil companies for something they have little control over aside from the price they as vendors charge their distributors (station owners).
I travel back and forth to NY quite frequently and mostly take I-95. There are a few big truckstop fueling stations along the way. One is the ''Pilot'' off Exit 40 just South (West really) of New Haven. You have to get off the exit to go there, and if you're going South this is more of a PITA/detour than if you are going North. It's not all that inconvenient, but it does take a bit more time than going to the Mobils on the highway. Coming North, there is another station you have to pass by to get to the Pilot (Citgo), coming South there is another station that is a left turn vs. a right turn (Shell). The Pilot is quite large and has at least 32 pumps, the truck fueling area is a separate area/entrance entirely. The Citgo services trucks as well, but I've gotten blocked in there a few times because all traffic shares the same entrance/exit, etc. This station has only 8 pumps. I've never been to the Shell, but at a glance it has far fewer than 32 but more than 8. Just to the right of the exit going North is a no-name station. I think they have 4 pumps but there's no pay-at-the-pump, etc.
For MOST of the past two years that I can remember, the Pilot price is the lowest of the three that are together, and if the no-name is less there's usually a traffic jam most can't be bothered to wait through. Pilot is consistently at least 10 cents less than the Mobil on the highway. The Shell price is consistently considerably more -- 5 cents or more a gallon with an 8 cent differential being common. They offer a free car wash with a fill-up. The Citgo price is usually comparable to the Pilot. In recent months they have been a cent or two lower and I've gone there sometimes when going North as I can see the prices at both stations, but almost never when going South as I can't see the price and it's a PITA to drive down that road to turn around just to check it out.
The price at the Pilot is consistently one of, if not the lowest price I've seen in the state. Before Katrina it was fluctuating around $2.30/gallon and in the pre-Kat spike it had risen to $2.53. Then
August 26 the price was 2.53
August 31 the price was posted as $2.79 on the 5mile out announcement billboard, price at the pump WAS actually $2.89 on the big price sign. We filled at the Citgo for $2.84. On the way out, driving past the Pilot the sign had changed to $3.09. Shell was selling for $2.79 still. Mobil on the highway a few exits North was only $2.75.
Sept. 1 the price was $3.39, Citgo unknown, Shell $3.25.
Sept. 4 the price was down to $3.29, Citgo the same, Shell $3.25. Back on the highway, the Mobil in the rest area was only charging $3.09.
(Down in NY, the gas spiked to $3.89 on the 3rd, but were already down to as low as $3.41 on the 4th.)
So is/was Pilot gouging? I don't think so. I think they are a HUGE volume station and were actually trying to keep their traffic down a bit in the face of questionable supplies. Normally, they keep their prices low (the cheapest gas near my home is usually at best the Pilot price, rarely cheaper, usually a few cents more), and the residents of the area circa Pilot have them to thank for the relatively low prices at nearby stations (I've driven around that area to shop quite a bit). The only reason the Citgo sometimes sells gas for a few cents less is to attract business as their set up is a bit less convenient than the Pilot. Additionally, we are talking about Sunday of Labor Day weekend where a station looking to ''gouge'' holiday travelers would not be lowering prices as they did by 10 cents. My guess is that a few days out from Katrina, the estimates about future supply were more concrete so they could be less protective of inventory. In order to gouge, you have 4 stations that would have to collude to raise prices. Nobody ever complains, I would note, when prices are ultra low due to price warring stations
So when I next go to NY, I probably will top off around here where I can find gas for about $3.09 at last check. I expect Pilot probably will have gone down another few cents. I'll report back sometime tomorrow.
The market and competition is handling this nicely. No need for Blumenthal to waste tax dollars investigating IMO.