Gas prices vary from city to city in North Dakota, but don't ask Minot Area Chamber of Commerce President John MacMartin why that might be.
"I've given up trying to track it," said MacMartin. ".... Every time I inquire about gas marketing it just goes crazy and nobody can fully explain it."
The price of a gallon of gas on the eastern side of the state is less expensive. In Grand Forks, for instance, the low price at the Flying J was $3.49 a gallon, according to (www.northdakotagasprices.com). Other gas stations in Grand Forks were selling gas for $3.59 per gallon. In Fargo, gas prices ranged from a low of $3.38 per gallon to a high of $3.49 per gallon, though Gene Ladoucer, AAA North Dakota spokesman in the Fargo office, said the average gas price in Fargo is 17 cents higher than it was last year at this time.
Customers fill up at the M&H Gas Station on Burdick Expressway in Minot on Tuesday afternoon, where the price of a regular unleaded gallon of gas was $3.69.
As travelers head west, they will see gas prices creeping up. In Devils Lake on Monday, the price of a gallon of gas at the local Cenex station was $3.59 per gallon.
In Minot, the average gas price is currently $3.75, up 14 cents from the average gas price in July 2013, Ladoucer said.
Even in Minot, though, the prices can vary, with some stations selling regular unleaded for $3.79 a gallon and others for $3.74 or $3.69 a gallon. "The western side of the state is generally always more expensive," said Ladoucer.
Ladoucer said prices in different communities are dependent on sources of supply and the shopping habits of the coommunity. Gas station owners don't make most of their profits on gas, he said, but they do make more money off the extras they sell in the gas station such as candy bars, soda pop and other items on sale.
Ladoucer said there are a number of reasons for the differences in gas prices. Communities on the eastern side of the state have about 15 petroleum suppliers to choose from, he said, while communities in the western part of the state have only a couple of suppliers to choose from.
"North Dakota is generally at the end of the pipeline and is the first to feel the pain of increasing prices," said Ladoucer.
At a national level, prices have gone up in recent weeks due to the ongoing disturbances in the Middle East. Ladoucer said prices should come down slightly because the oil fields in southern Iraq haven't been impacted by the fighting in that country. Consumers probably won't see much of a difference in pricing, though, he said.
Ladoucer said major price hikes can happen if there are supply disruptions, such as a work stoppage at a refinery for a repair or caused by a hurricane. Usually, the location of a refinery doesn't have an impact if the supply of oil is plentiful, he said.
Ladoucer said he gets calls when prices go up and people are generally curious about why there are such differences in pricing from town to town.
"There tends to (be) some finger pointing," he said. "It all boils down to each city or county is a different marketplace."