"We put our price on the street in three foot signs, so it becomes very noticeable," said Joe Choquette of the Vermont Petroleum Association.
Choquette represents petroleum distributors across the state. He says the volatile nature of gasoline prices can be confusing to some consumers, but his industry has nothing to hide.
"It's a very transparent industry," he said. "All you need to do is get in your car and drive down the street and you can see our price with even getting out of the car."
But Senator Bernie Sanders is concerned about those prices and why some Vermonters in the greater Burlington area are paying substantially more at the pump.
"When four companies control 58 percent of the market they have the capability of maintaining artificially high prices," said Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont.
Reporter Jennifer Reading: Are your distributors doing anything illegal?
Joe Choquette: Uh, first of all, I don't know. And if they are, then they ought to be prosecuted.
Last week, Sanders sent a letter to the U.S. attorney general and the chairman of the Federal Trade Commission urging the Oil and Gas Price Fraud Working Group to start investigating the 25-cent price discrepancy.
"I've seen the letter. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, they uncover," Choquette said. "We think it's a competitive market."
There are at least a dozen distributors in the greater Burlington area who supply gasoline to stations in Chittenden, Franklin and Grand Isle counties. Choquette says they set their prices based on what it costs them to buy the product and what they'll pay for the next load. But the biggest factor is what their competition is doing. Bottom line, stations are in it to make money, not necessarily to give the gas away at cost.
"The statewide average according to AAA this morning was about $3.50 a gallon and the average price in the Chittenden County area is about $3.58 a gallon," Choquette said.
So the price gap is closing, but how does Choquette explain that 8-cent discrepancy?
"That is because most of the stations here in Chittenden County are served right out of the Burlington terminal and the stations in Rutland County, they're more served out of the Albany terminal," Choquette said.
Gas coming from Albany is 5-6 cents a gallon cheaper at the wholesale level. Once the shipment hits Rutland, it's loaded onto a freight train bound for the Burlington terminal. The extra travel cost is passed along to the consumer.
Choquette says the best way to drive prices down is to shop around. If consumers make a point to go to the lowest priced vendor, his competition will be forced to lower their prices too.
In Chittenden County alone there is a 17-cent price difference at gas stations.
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