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Gas prices soaring

The Associated Press

The middle of winter looks more like the heart of summer at gas stations nationwide, as fuel prices surge past $2 a gallon in some places and motorists grumble about being gouged.

Political instability in Venezuela and the prospect of war in Iraq are triggering increases that normally don’t kick in until the peak driving season. And experts warn prices could shoot up even more as the political situations and the weather heat up.

The average retail price for a gallon of regular unleaded, $1.66, has risen 22 cents since the beginning of the year.

But because wholesale gas prices have increased just 14 cents over the same period of time, some consumers suspect oil companies are trying to cash in on market uncertainties.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., called on the Federal Trade Commission this week to investigate industry practices.

In a letter to FTC chairman Timothy Muris, the senator said: “It appears as if price gouging is taking place across the country.”