Gas prices have locals fuming

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Charlie Willison isn't bashful about voicing his opinions on Craig's gasoline prices.

The 68-year-old Navy veteran said he refuses to buy gas in Craig because he thinks local gas stations are charging too much.

His truck is plastered with stickers questioning why Steam--boat Springs has cheaper gas and whether Craig's prices are the result of greed or price fixing.

Willison, who buys his gas in Baggs, Wyo., and Steamboat, said he gets lots of positive feedback for his stickers.

"People like it," he said.

On Friday, a gallon of unleaded at the Kum & Go on Anglers Drive in Steamboat sold for $2.27. At the same time, a gallon of gas at the Kum & Go on Yampa Avenue in Craig cost $2.39.

At a Conoco station in Baggs, a gallon of unleaded went for $2.13 on Friday.

Willison, a former gas station manager in Seattle, places the blame for Craig's high prices on the gas stations.

"If Baggs can sell it for that, why can't they?" he asked.

Tight lipped

Gas retailers decline to talk about why fuel is more expensive in Craig than the rest of the region.

When asked whether Craig's prices are the result of higher sales volume in Steamboat or a matter of delivery costs, Kum & Go corporate spokeswoman Maureen Roushar refused to comment.

Because gas prices can change rapidly, the company has a policy not to discuss the gas industry, Roushar said.

Local Kum & Go managers say they aren't allowed to discuss the reasons behind their prices.

But the National Association of Convenience Stores insists convenience stores have little to do with the price of gas.

In 2004, convenience stores averaged less than 2 cents profit on a gallon of gas, according to the association.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, crude oil prices are responsible for about half the cost of a gallon of gas.

Distribution, marketing and retailer costs and profits make up 12 percent of the cost of a gallon of gasoline, according to the administration.

Few complaints

Complaints about what consumers perceive as unfair gas prices should be filed with Colorado Attorney General John Suthers.

But according to a spokeswoman for Suthers, even after gas prices skyrocketed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the attorney general wasn't flooded with complaints.

Prices have gone down in recent months and the number of complaints has fallen even further, said Kristen Hubbell, a spokeswoman for Suthers.

Most of the complaints about gas prices are general and don't mention a specific city, Hubbell said.

A state representative recently asked Suthers to launch a full-scale investigation into gas prices in mountain towns, but Suthers declined. Prices alone don't suggest illegal conduct by gasoline retailers, he said.

Forced to change

Although managers at the local Kum & Go say they can't talk about why and how their prices are set, at least one manager thinks business is being hurt by consumers such as Willison.

Debbie Knez, manager of the west Kum & Go, said losing customers to Baggs and Steamboat would hurt local gas stations.

By filling up outside of Craig, Willison said he hopes local retailers will eventually take notice.

"I won't help fund their greed," he said. "Why pay these prices when you can get the same gas, cheaper price?"

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