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    Roller Coaster Prices in Midwest

    St. Louis and Madison, Wis. report spiraling gas prices -- in both directions.

    ST. LOUIS, Mo. -- A QuikTrip sign near St. Louis displayed regular unleaded gasoline for $3.20 per gallon, down the road, another QuikTrip prices its regular fuel at $2.87.

    "I've never seen anything like this. Wholesale prices went up. Maybe [the stations selling cheaper gas] have an arrangement with their wholesalers, or maybe they have excess gas. Who knows?" AAA Auto Club of Missouri's spokesman Mike Right told The Associated Press.

    Ron Leone, executive director of the Missouri Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association told the AP that retailers are simply responding to higher wholesale prices. "We're at or near historic highs and we're starting to see the consequences of that at the pump," Leone said.

    The fluctuation in prices stretched well beyond St. Louis, reported the AP. Stations in the Kansas City metro-area were priced at $2.73 per gallon.

    Because the St. Louis region is required by the Environmental Protection Agency to sell clean-burning gasoline to reduce air pollution, Leone attributes the gas hike to the reformulated gas, with prices that are more unstable than regular gas.

    "When prices are the same in a market area, we're accused of collusion, and when they're not the same, we're accused of a gouging price," Leone said. "We're damned if we do and damned if we don't."

    Consumers in Missouri are not the only ones seeing drastic fluctuations in gas price. In Madison, Wis., the price for regular gas is $3.19 at a BP Amoco, breaking the high mark of $3.09 set on July 27. But in the same town, some stations are still showing prices at $3.03 per gallon. The statewide average today was $3.12, according to AAA Wisconsin.

    "It's the marketplace," Erin Roth, executive director of the Wisconsin Petroleum Council told the Capital Times. "One retailer raises prices and everybody else follows."

    Matt Hauser, director of government relations for the Wisconsin Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, told the newspaper that retailers have been holding prices for a couple days as wholesale prices climbed, but at some point, they must pass the higher costs on.

    "Everything is so tight these days," he said. "It used to be that prices would stay the same for weeks. Now they can jump overnight."

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