Gasoline profit margins in northwest Vermont at the end of June were double the national average, according to detailed data shared with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) by a leading fuel price research firm.
Burlington was the most lucrative gas market in the Northeast, according to data tracked by the Oil Price Information Service, the independent research firm. There was nearly four-fold jump in profit margins since January in Burlington.
Nationwide, Burlington was the fifth most profitable gas market in the United States at the end of June. (The most profitable markets were Bellingham Wash., Seattle, Wash., Portland, Ore., and Yuma, Ariz.)
"We are in the midst of a terrible recession and a lot of working families who drive to and from work are hurting," Sanders said. "Service station owners have a right to make a profit. They don't have a right to rip people off."
The profit margin - the difference between what stations and fuel distributors pay for gas and what they charge their customers - was a whopping 57.9 cents a gallon at the end of June in Burlington. Profits also were high in St. Albans (57.2 cents a gallon) and Waterbury (57.5 cents a gallon). The profit markup on gas in both towns more than tripled since the beginning of the year.
The average nationwide profit margin at the end of June was 27.1 cents a gallon, a figure which itself more than doubled since January.
The Oil Price Information Service provided the Vermont and national statistics to Sanders after he called on July 2 for a federal investigation by the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice into unusually high gas prices in northwestern Vermont.
The latest revelations on profit margins buttress price data that the FTC turned over to Sanders showing that gasoline prices in Burlington in June were as much as 10 cents to 43 cents greater than a Federal Trade Commission computer model projected they should be. By June 30, the average price in Burlington was $3.68 a gallon, 10 cents more than the predicted high of $3.58 and 43 cents above the predicted low.
Prices and profit margins at Vermont stations have slipped a little in July as prices rose by about a nickel on average nationwide.