LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - As if consumers weren't already aware of the high cost of fuel - let a hurricane influence the price and everyone takes notice. Gas prices seemed to have jumped slightly overnight as Isaac approached.
Prices vary from pump to pump across the Lake Area. In Sulphur prices range from $3.51 to $3.89 per gallon. Over the bridge in Westlake $3.89 was also the magic number and just down the road in Moss Bluff those prices were very much the same. In Lake Charles you'll find regular unleaded from $3.89 to everything in between.
For Amanda Woody $3.59 a gallon was a bargain.
"It's really expensive. This is the first gas station that I've been to that's actually not in the 70s with some cents," said Woody.
So why the differences in price? The biggest factor is the use of ethanol. Gas stations with no ethanol generally run at least 10 cents more per gallon. Also with more than 50% of oil production shut down in the Gulf of Mexico due to Isaac - prices are up. But is it price gouging? Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell said they're average about ten calls per hour.
"Not everyone of these circumstances just because the price goes up doesn't mean that there is price gouging. The main thing again is has the profit margin increased of either the retailer, wholesaler or the refinery," said Caldwell.
There is a 1-800 number to call if you suspect price gouging but getting a live person to answer the line isn't always easy.
Callers are encouraged to leave their name and number along with the city of the suspected price gouging. Caldwell also urges people to take pictures of the gas prices to help with investigations.
"In some of these instances the price again some increase may be justified but they need to be able to show it. The difference is can you as a business show it. Be prepared to show it," said Caldwell.
So while there appears to be no evidence of price gouging in Southwest Louisiana. Businesses need not forget consumers and authorities are watching. And it's not just gas prices Caldwell also said they investigate price gouging on other commodities during emergencies.
If you suspect a business of price gouging you can call the Attorney General's Office at 1-800-351-4889. Caldwell said consumers can also call local authorities to investigate as well.