Gas Prices Spike After Katrina

Gas prices rose overnight by as much as 45 cents a gallon in some parts of the state. The steep hike has resulted in at least one subpoena to Colonial Oil in Jacksonville. Retail gas stations are pointing fingers at wholesalers.

Here in Panama City gas prices roses 14 to 20 cents a gallon in just a few hours Tuesday.

Some gas prices jumped dramatically overnight. Others did not go up at all. By law, wholesalers and retailers should not be raising prices on fuel that's already in their tanks, but the people who sell gas to the public say that is exactly what their suppliers did to them.

Jim Smith represents the Florida Petroleum Marketers group and says, "We asked the attorney general to see if this does not fall under the governor's emergency declaration, and perhaps the oil companies have been a bit premature with their increases."

Based on a complaint to the attorney general, one subpoena has already been issued. It went to Colonial Oil, telling the wholesaler to justify the prices it's charging its retailers.

Asked about the dramatic price hikes in some places, Jeb Bush says it is a fact of supply and demand.

"The thought of maybe releasing the strategic petroleum reserve will bring supply to the market will help, but we'll have a few days at least of not outright shortages but there are limits on supply".

Some motorists like Melanie Turenne, a student from St. Petersburg, are taking the hikes in stride.

"I have no choice. You have to drive. You have to pay for gas. There is no way to get around it," says Melanie.

Others like Eric Garcia Benitez from Miami remain skeptical.

"You always have that in the back of your mind, you know, there are just taking advantage of the situation.”

It will take weeks for the attorney general to get the information requested in the subpoena. In the meantime, it will be buyer beware.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is also charged with investigating complaints of price gouging. If you would like to report what you think are unjustified gas price hikes, the number to call is 1-800-HELP-FLA.