DICKINSON, N.D. (AP) — Residents of western North Dakota's oil patch are wondering why they pay as much as 50 cents a gallon more for gasoline than people who live in the eastern part of the state.
"We have all this oil here," Dickinson resident Jane Corey told The Dickinson Press. "Why are prices higher?"
Among North Dakota's major cities, Williston had the highest average gas price Friday at $3.82 a gallon, according to Fargo's AAA report. The price in Dickinson was $3.77, while Fargo had the state's lowest price at $3.47. Meanwhile, stations in small towns in western North Dakota were charging nearly $4 a gallon.
North Dakota's statewide average price for gas was $3.66 a gallon Friday, the same as the national average, according to AAA.
Fargo AAA spokesman Gene LaDoucer said supply and demand play a role. A refinery in Mandan is a source for gasoline in western North Dakota, while four refineries provide fuel to eastern North Dakota, he said.
"That's an age-old question that I don't know that there is any answer that's going to satisfy anyone," LaDoucer said.
However, he said there are more gas stations in eastern North Dakota, so competition could be driving down prices there.
LaDoucer said there is usually a 15-cent-a-gallon difference in gas prices between eastern and western North Dakota.
He said it's illegal for gas stations to collaborate in order to keep prices high, but stations usually follow suit when one changes its price.
"That's just the nature of the gasoline retail business," he said. "You have to stay near your competitors so you don't lose customers. It's kind of a game that's played."
Vicki Nogosek, manager of the T-Rex Conoco station in Dickinson, said gas stations are not to blame.
"You hear a lot of people complaining about it, and you get tired of it because they act like we are gouging, but it's not us doing it," she said.