Drivers in Iowa were startled this week to see a jump in the prices at gas stations, after they went up a considerable amount barely a week earlier. Dawn Carlson is spokeswoman for the Petroleum Marketers of Iowa, and she says with the world market volatile, it’s all the local dealers can do to keep up. Once, market prices changed every few days and that information was sent to retail dealers by mail, or fax.Now she says it’s information-on-demand, with price changes happening almost second-by-second, and data coming to the state’s retail distributors by Internet, e-mail, and communication lines that are “changing by the minute.” Carlson says Iowa’s one of the most competitive states in the nation and that means the best possible prices for consumers, even when they’re going up. Carlson says Iowa’s retail margins for gasoline are among the worst in the country, meaning the profit is small for dealers because there are thousands of them competing for business in the state with other small independent businesspeople. And though you’ll see plenty of national and world band-names on the signs at gas stations, don’t think big corporations are ordering them around or setting their prices. When you see the major oil-company sign out on the street advertising a gas station or convenience store the businessperson is paying a fee to use it, “renting” the image though the gas stations and convenience stores in Iowa are mostly not owned by the major oil companies, the way she says they are in California. Prices at many outlets jumped a dime a gallon last week and another ten cents this week…and summer driving season begins with Memorial Day the end of this month, a time when prices traditionally are pushed farther up by demand.
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