BOISE – Idaho gas prices took motorists, municipalities and businesses for a more expensive ride in 2006, averaging about a quarter more per gallon than the year prior and setting record high prices in the process, according to AAA Idaho.

Based on average daily prices computed throughout the year and averaged each month, AAA said Idahoans paid an average price of $2.53 a gallon for self-serve regular gasoline in 2006, compared to $2.29 in 2005. Along the way, the Gem State broke new ground for a new record high average price of just above $3.02 in August.

“Idaho and U.S. gas price trend lines looked more like a rollercoaster this year, with dramatic swings reflecting volatile crude oil prices and new ′geo-political′ concerns around the world,” said AAA Idaho Director of Public and Government Affairs Dave Carlson. “For the first time we′re aware of in recent memory, Idaho′s $2.53 average price for the year was actually lower than the national average ($2.56).”

U.S. average prices were up sharply during the first part of the year, compared to Idaho′s. Both peaked above the $3.00 mark in late August and early September, but Idaho′s prices seemed stubbornly resistant to the dropping crude oil prices that led to lower retail prices elsewhere in the country.

Idaho′s current average price is $2.36, compared to a national average price of $2.33.

Idaho′s average price ranged 30 to 40 cents higher than the national average during September and October. That prompted Idaho′s Attorney General to ask five gasoline distributors to explain why Idaho prices were at odds with those elsewhere in the country.

In October, the Attorney General′s office issued a report from an inquiry into higher gasoline prices begun the year prior, following Hurricane Katrina. The report concluded gas retailers did not charge consumers “exorbitant or excessive prices” and did nothing illegal when gas prices jumped 40 cents a gallon in September 2005.

AAA Idaho said the Gem State′s gasoline prices have risen between 24 to 37 cents each of the past three years. Here are average annual U.S. and Idaho prices for the past four years:

2003 U.S. $1.56 Idaho $1.65

U.S. $1.84 Idaho $1.92

U.S. $2.26 Idaho $2.29

U.S. $2.56 Idaho $2.53

“Tighter supplies, increased demand and volatile markets have changed the petroleum landscape in recent years,” Carlson said. “Those factors are not likely to ease substantially in the long term.”