Gas prices said beyond local control

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, September 15, 2004

As the state attorney general warned gasoline dealers Tuesdayabout illegal price gouging, station employees and owners largelysaid the prices they charge are, in many cases, beyond theircontrol.

Attorney general’s office spokesman Jacob Ray said the officehas received complaints from residents that price-gouging hadalready occurred by Tuesday as far north as Jackson.

“It’s mostly gas stations, motels, lumber places that sellplywood, but we’re concerned about it everywhere,” Ray said.

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Some Brookhaven residents and travelers also complained Tuesdayabout gas prices’ sudden climb.

A Natchez man, who would not be identified, said he refused tobuy gas in Brookhaven after watching a store employee raise pricesby several cents Tuesday afternoon.

At Murphy USA, located in the parking lot of Wal-Mart onBrookway Boulevard, the price of regular gasoline started Tuesdayat $1.63 per gallon.

Murphy Oil on Brookway Boulevard started Tuesday morning withthe price of $1.63 per gallon for regular gasoline. By Tuesdayevening, the price had climbed to $1.69 per gallon. Employee NicoleUse said prices are set by the corporate office.

“We monitor prices at Exxon, Amoco and Blue Sky,” Use said.Prices are then put into a computer and reviewed at the corporatelevel. “Any change in gas prices is faxed from them,” she said.

An employee at Blue Sky on Brookway Boulevard, who said MurphyUSA is the store’s direct competitor, had a similar story. Thestore’s Tuesday afternoon price was $1.69 but had been $1.63 thatmorning.

Neil Bozeman, owner of 84 Chevron, located at the intersectionof Highway 84 and Interstate 55, said his distributor increasedprices four cents Tuesday morning, forcing him to raise his gasprices.

“My cost went up four cents per gallon this morning, but I onlyraised my price by two cents,” Bozeman said. Asked why gas priceswere increasing, he said, “I hear that one quarter of the oil issupplied from the Gulf and they are pulling people off the rigs.This is the reason gas prices are increasing.”

Despite the rising prices, Bozeman reported increased trafficTuesday.

An employee at Tillotson’s Economy Service Station located onHighway 51 said its prices were unchanged from Monday to Tuesday at$1.62 per gallon for regular gasoline.

Pump and Save, located at the intersection of Brookway Boulevardand Monticello Street, also reported no change in that time period.Regular unleaded gasoline was being sold there for $1.63. Accordingto Bruce Garrett, manager of Save Rite, which owns Pump and Save,prices are “corporately set” and he didn’t anticipate any change inprices.

Crude oil for October increased 2.5 percent, or $1.06, on theNew York Mercantile Exchange to close at $43.87 a barrelTuesday.

Anyone suspecting price gouging may call the attorneygeneral’s office at 1-800-281-4418.