In a competitive marketplace, such as that for gasoline and other motor fuels in the USA, outside of lifeboat situations (which are few), there is no such thing as "price gouging".
That having been said, the term seems to have lodged permanently in the popular consciousness as slang for "the price is higher than I'd like it to be and I don't understand why."
A conundrum: does use of the term by public officials such as President Bush, including reassurances that the practice--whatever it is--will be "investigated", do good by keeping demand for price controls and other harmful interventions in the marketplace low, or do harm by perpetuating the myth that there is such a thing as "gouging" and that increases in gasoline prices in the wake of a natural disaster may be it?
Brickbat: Old Enough to Know Better
1 hour ago