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Why Gasoline Prices Are So Different Around the US
CNBC.com | February 27, 2012 | 12:07 PM EST

Retail gasoline prices in the US have skyrocketed over 13 percent — more than 40 cents — so far this year, as the price of crude oil has surged to the highest level since last May.

The national average for regular gasoline rose to $3.70 Friday, up 14 cents in the past week — and only about 40 cents shy of the all-time record high of $4.11 a gallon reached in July 2008.

While many are feeling the pain at the pump, Americans are seeing widely divergent prices depending on where they live.

Why are drivers in Fort Collins, Colorado paying a little over $3, while those in Santa Barbara, California are seeing gas prices at $4.33 a gallon?

Colorado, Montana, Utah and Wyoming have the cheapest pump prices in the country, at about $3.21 a gallon or less on average, while retail gasoline prices are near $4.30 a gallon in California and are over $4 in some parts of New York.

The answer lies in the "chaos" in crude oil prices around the nation, says OPIS energy analyst Tom Kloza. "There's never been more diversity in crude oil prices. There's never been more diversity in gasoline prices."

The divergence in pump prices comes from the wildly differing wholesale prices for gasoline. The wholesale price of gasoline in the Rocky Mountains and Midwest is about 20 to 40 cents cheaper than on the East Coast, for example.

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