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Labor Day gas prices should remain steep

August 30, 2012

FROM WIRE REPORTS

For Labor Day weekend, American consumers in 45 states will likely see the highest fuel prices they’ve ever seen at this time of year. Only motorists in Alaska, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico and Wyoming will be spared from record-high prices at the pump.

“The average motorist will be laboring a bit more to pay for gas this Labor Day weekend,” Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst with GasBuddy.com, said. “Although the end of summer driving season usually sends retail gas prices downward, they’ve got a long way to go before prices fall back to tolerable. While Isaac begins to weaken, there are still enough upset motorists to think this was a category-five storm.”
The national gasoline average is at $3.80 per gallon, 18 cents more than this time last year. Eight states have an average price today at $4 per gallon or higher.

Hurricane Isaac’s impact forced Gulf Coast refineries and others in its path to partial or full closures, but experts predict current prices at the pump are likely to move lower through the weekend.

“Contrary to popular belief that prices always rise during major holiday weekends, analysis of Labor Day weekend prices from 2001 through 2011 shows that the national average price of gas actually declined in 10 of the last 11 years,” Gregg Laskoski, a senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com, said. “In three of those years, the decline was nominal — by a half cent per gallon or less. In 2006, we saw the greatest decrease from the Friday through Monday (down 3.3 cents per gallon). 2002 was the only year when Labor Day weekend prices increased (up 2.6 cents per gallon).”

Locally, Gasbuddy.com reported regular Starkville pump prices varied from $3.55 to $3.75 on Thursday.

Earlier this week, Curt Crissey, the owner of three Starkville gas stations, said prices should remain elevated while Isaac interrupts refining.

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood issued a press release Tuesday confirming he was enforcing the state’s price gouging statute. He had previously issued a statement Monday saying he could not enforce the statute at that time because a state of emergency alone “does not establish our ability to enforce the price gouging statute.”

The statute says the value received “for all goods and services sold within the designated emergency impact area shall not exceed the prices ordinarily charged for comparable goods or services in the same market area or immediately before the declaration of a state of emergency or local emergency.”

The Attorney General’s office has reported receiving more than 200 price gouging calls related to Hurricane Isaac.

“It just isn’t right to slip in last minute increases knowing our folks are facing an emergency situation.” Attorney General Hood said earlier in the week.  “After Katrina some hotel owners in North Mississippi decreased their prices for those fleeing the hurricane.  I hope that spirit will prevail during Isaac.”

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