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HOLIDAY WEEKEND PUMPS UP PRICES AT THE GAS PUMPS
COINCIDENCE? INDUSTRY ADMITS IT HOPES TO CAPITALIZE ON DAYS OF ’47.

SHARE HOLIDAY WEEKEND PUMPS UP PRICES AT THE GAS PUMPS
COINCIDENCE? INDUSTRY ADMITS IT HOPES TO CAPITALIZE ON DAYS OF ’47.

It's the weekend before the biggest summer holiday in Utah and, like clockwork, gasoline prices have shot up as much as 8 cents a gallon.

Coincidence or conspiracy?The last overnight price surge occurred just before the Memorial Day weekend, but industry officials dismissed rumors of a concerted effort to gouge consumers. They blamed gradually increasing demand and depleting supplies for forcing wholesale prices up.

To maintain their profit margins, service stations coincidentally responded just before the holiday by jacking up pump prices, which they claim had been depressed by stiff competition among retailers.

This time the reasoning hasn't changed much, although the industry is more frank in saying capitalizing on anticipated business from holiday travelers did have something to do with the price boost.

"Common sense says it has to have something to do with it, but the real reason for the price going up is to make a profit" in a depressed market, said Paul Ashton, executive director of the Utah Petroleum Retailers Association.

"It's the best news I've heard in a month," he said of the increase. Ashton said new and stricter environmental standards on storage tanks and other equipment have become costly to service stations, so a price increase is welcome.

The wholesale price has inched up from 95 cents a gallon to about $1 since Memorial Day, he said, gradually eating away local stations' profit margin until those selling it at 99 cents were operating at a loss.

Ashton characterized the price jump before the weekend as a survival tactic to make up for lost profits by taking advantage of the increased business during the July 24th weekend.

Representatives for local convenience stores and gas stations were unavailable for comment Friday.

If you think the reasoning still sounds fishy, you aren't alone. The state attorney general's office recently stepped up its investigation into sharp price fluctuations in gasoline prices along the Wasatch Front, but it's unknown what investigators have found.

Asked about this latest surge in prices, attorney general spokesman John Clark said, "We are carefully monitoring movements in gas prices."