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Archive for Thursday, July 4, 2013

Lawrence drivers, at home or hitting the road, benefit from drop in gas prices

July 4, 2013

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Gasoline prices dipped below $3.33 this week in Lawrence, lower than they had been in months. Travelers are also likely to find lower prices elsewhere in the country, as the national average price of gas has declined for three weeks this summer.

Gasoline prices dipped below $3.33 this week in Lawrence, lower than they had been in months. Travelers are also likely to find lower prices elsewhere in the country, as the national average price of gas has declined for three weeks this summer.

Gasoline prices are on a summer slide, giving Lawrence drivers a break as they set out on road trips and vacations this Fourth of July weekend.

At most Lawrence gas stations, prices are lower than they have been in months, and travelers will likely find prices down elsewhere too. The national average for a gallon of regular fell for three weeks straight going into July, and is now below $3.50 for the first time since February. Prices are even lower in Douglas County and across the state, and Lawrence is doing better than most, with the price of a gallon of regular dropping below $3.33 this week.

The reason: the price of crude oil has been fairly stable, and refineries are turning out more gasoline after finishing springtime maintenance, according to an Associated Press report. Experts say the drop may be interrupted temporarily after oil prices spiked Wednesday because of fears that turmoil in Egypt could disrupt the flow of crude oil in the Mideast. But most analysts don’t expect a big increase at the pump while global oil supplies remain steady and U.S. refineries are producing a lot of gas.

A Midwest rollercoaster

Norman Pitts, of Lawrence, returned this week from a fishing trip in Missouri and found gas at $3.31 a gallon at a Dillons gas station at 3000 W. Sixth St. He said he noticed the drop from the the last time he filled up in town, three weeks ago, and paid $3.59. Other stations in Lawrence posted gas at $3.29, and it will make a big difference to Pitts if the prices stay low, he said.

“I spend a lot on gas,” Pitts said. “We travel quite a bit, this summer especially.”

Elsewhere in the U.S., the slide has been gradual. But it has been more of a roller-coaster ride in the Midwest, where prices were higher early last month because of refinery maintenance work and a fire at a Michigan refinery. Since then, prices have plunged as the refineries have ramped back up. The average price of a gallon in Kansas was $3.35 today, 34 cents below the $3.69 average a month ago, when prices spiked, according to KansasGasPrices.com, a website that tracks gasoline prices.

Whether the low prices will hold isn’t certain, experts say. Oil prices shot up Wednesday above $101 per barrel, the highest since May 2012, as the crisis in Egypt deepened. Egypt is not a major oil producer but controls the Suez Canal, a major shipping lane for Middle Eastern crude.

While analysts are not expecting a resulting surge in gasoline prices, they could rise quickly if the Mideast unrest does disrupt oil supplies. Gas could also climb if a hurricane threatens the heart of the refining industry along the Gulf Coast.

Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at GasBuddy.com, predicted the national average will hover between $3.30 and $3.60 for the rest of the summer. That would be somewhat lower than the last two summers, when gasoline prices spent part of the season above $3.70 per gallon.

A volatile market

But gas prices have seen better summers, too. So far, this year’s early summer decline, while welcome, is smaller than the seasonal drops of the past two years, when gas prices also fell between Memorial Day and Independence Day. Across Kansas, gasoline is five cents more expensive, on average, than it was last year at this time.

Gas prices typically rise in early spring when refineries perform maintenance and switch from making winter gasoline blends to the more complex summer blends required for clean-air rules. When the nation’s refineries aren’t operating at full strength, supplies drop and prices rise.

“When refineries go down it can create immediate and severe havoc,” said Kloza, the GasBuddy.com analyst. “It’s a very shallow distribution system, quick to fill and quick to empty.”

That’s what happened in the Midwest earlier this year. A fire broke out at a Marathon refinery in Detroit in late April while maintenance was underway at an Exxon Mobil refinery in Joliet, Ill., and a BP refinery in Whiting, Ind. Prices in Kansas shot up, as they did elsewhere, reaching $3.71 for a gallon of regular in Douglas County. By July, gas was back down to $3.51 and still dropping.

Regional spikes and plunges are likely to happen more often in coming years, analysts say. The number of U.S. refineries has shrunk by a quarter since 1993 to 143, but the nation’s refining capacity has grown 18 percent since then. The remaining refineries are getting bigger, so if one goes down, it’s a bigger shock to the system.

Gasoline taxes account for the biggest difference in pump prices for U.S. drivers, according to the American Petroleum Institute, the industry’s chief lobbying group. Combined local, state, and federal taxes on gas in Kansas total more than 43 cents per gallon, greater than some neighboring states, including Missouri, Oklahoma, and Colorado.

For his part, Roy Halverstadt, 71, of Lawrence, wasn’t impressed today with the $3.32 price per gallon at a Kwik Shop gas station at 1420 Kasold Dr. Just back from a visit to family members out of state last week, Halverstadt said he paid less elsewhere: $3.19 for a gallon of gas in Dayton, Ohio and $3.23 near St.Louis, Mo.

He also was pessimistic about the gas prices staying low.

“You can kiss this goodbye,” Halverstadt said. “It’s going back up, no doubt about it.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Comments

jesse499 9 months, 3 weeks ago

The simple fact is the reason gas prices won't go down much is the feds and the states would lose millions in taxes.

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patkindle 9 months, 3 weeks ago

folks whined about the price of gas when it was 19.9 cents..... some of them nearly died when it hit one dollar...... it is fine for the govt to make more money per gallon than the oil companies, unless you own stock in oil companies, you hate them worse than our corrupt govt. when gas really gets too expensive technology will take over, so if you really hate buying gas, stay home on weekends, and don't drive to kc or Topeka

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JHawkInLA 9 months, 3 weeks ago

$3.85 in Los Angeles. Anyone in Lawrence want to trade? Our State gas tax just went up 3.5 cents a gallon because we aren't buying enough gasoline. There is plenty of oil in the ground, but we can't drill much of it, because the same legislators who raised the tax, won't allow it.

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thebigspoon 9 months, 3 weeks ago

$3.11 in Independence,Missouri...

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Larry Moss 9 months, 3 weeks ago

$1.90 a gallon when Obama took office. Just saying.

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Phoghorn 9 months, 3 weeks ago

On Wednesday, I suggested to LJW that they might see a reduction in clicks due to the annoying surveys on their website. My comment got disapeardedededed. I am just trying to give some honest feedback here. I have always enjoyed reading this site, but the LJW is not the only source of news in NE Kansas. The most user friendly sites are going to be the ones that get the most re-clicks.

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rtwngr 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. The reason gasoline prices are where they are is a direct result of remaning weakness of the U.S. economy, high unemployment, minimal growth in GDP, high debt, quantitative easing, and no prospect of it changing anytime soon. All of this weakens the value of the dollar which means it takes more dollars to buy gasoline. This is the new norm courtesy of the Obama administration. Last one to leave, turn out the lights.

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Charles L Bloss Jr 9 months, 3 weeks ago

We have been screwed for so long, we welcome a drop in price, still over $ 3 a gallon as something to be happy about. I guess we can see the oil company's plan working. They are making millions off of the monopoly on a product we must have, and when they lower it a few cents, yet still over $ 3 a gallon, we are thankful for that?

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jesse499 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Lawrence is still higher priced then towns around what's that tell you when their 15 cents cheaper this morning in Topeka and oh I forgot we were told the reason we are higher is we are on KC pricing their 20 cents cheaper .

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Jayhawker07 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Sorry to say it to you the wrong way. I guess saying world leaders mislead you. World leaders are put into office to convey and protect the interests of those who put them there. Should have said The World Bank and there shareholders. Thanks for the info, just inforces what we are up against. You do know it is all about the dollar or should I say Oil Dollars. What would happen if oil was not traded on the open market in dollars?

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Jayhawker07 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Gas prices are now planned and selected by our world leaders. Just pay as you go. We also have options with the fuel that we choose. Fuel that is subsidized from our taxes which provides lower prices and lower fuel miles or pay for oil not from locals. Why the heck are we still dependent on foreign oil. Oil just shot up because some of our oil is from Egypt. Please! We have so many resourses within our land and waters. So, how many rigs are in the gulf? To me that is our oil. And I will fight for it. We are so getting screwed. This is the same mindset that has allowed the City of Lawrence to fund the FritZel fund to suck off our nipple. Our local government acts just like our federal governement. Corupt liers and theives. Don't think they will not take your guns away, they will in due time. I do not like where our rights and lives are heading.

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