03/06/07 — Dealers: Gasoline prices high again, but relief could be on the way next week

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Dealers: Gasoline prices high again, but relief could be on the way next week

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on March 6, 2007 1:55 PM

Gas prices have been on the rise in Wayne County and elsewhere around the state for the past few weeks, with current prices hovering in the $2.45-$2.50 per gallon range for unleaded regular.

Only a month ago, prices were about 30 cents lower.

On Monday, the average price of a gallon of gas in Goldsboro was about $2.49 per gallon.

Most cities in eastern North Carolina had comparable prices. Greenville's gas was significantly lower -- about 20 cents less per gallon -- but a local gas war there has created the artificial decrease. Prices in Wilson this morning hovered between $2.39 and $2.47 per gallon.

Around Wayne County, prices ranged from $2.51 at the BP station near the fairgrounds to $2.42 at the Fast Lane a little further down U.S. 117.

Fast Lane owner Shirley Williams, an independent dealer, said her gas was "too cheap" but added that she expected to keep the price the same a few days and see what happens.

"I won't go up unless gasoline makes a big jump," she said.

She said she checked her cost last Monday at the terminal in Selma, and it was $2.17 a gallon, but she didn't need any at that time.

She waited until Feb. 27, when she needed gas. The cost had gone up to $2.38 a gallon, she said.

"My cost went up 21 cents in the last week," she said. "I call about every other day to see what it's going to cost, and it changes every single night at 6 p.m."

Prices on Berkeley Boulevard and Spence Avenue this morning were in the $2.46-$2.49 range for unleaded.

Some officials in the fuel business attribute the earlier drop in gas prices to an unusually mild winter and lower demands for heating oil, which drives up the cost of gasoline, too, when demand is high.

John Strickland of Wayne Oil and Dillon Wooten of Wooten Oil, two of the major suppliers of gasoline in Wayne County and surrounding areas, said they would not venture a guess as to why the gas prices are climbing again.

Gas retailer Judson Pope, who owns E.J. Pope and Son in Mount Olive, said he returned from his vacation Sunday night to find his cost of unbranded gas had risen to $2.39 a gallon. Branded fuel costs him three cents more, he said.

Part of the vacation included a meeting with a petroleum study group. He said North Carolina's profit margins are a lot lower than nationally. He said he doesn't know why.

"It's supply and demand, and heating oil demand went up in January. When it was warm, (the price of gas) fell, probably more than it would have. And now it's cold," he said.

Also, the gas prices will eventually be affected any time there's tension in any of the dozen or so OPEC countries or in North Korea, he said.

Another factor that affects the already complicated issue of gas prices is imports from the OPEC countries. Pope said he learned Monday afternoon that the U.S. is importing almost 300,000 barrels a day less than last year.

International news makes gas prices jump, too, he said. But he doesn't think the slump in the stock market would affect gas prices. It's just a matter of supply and demand, he said.

Tom Crosby of AAA Carolinas said today that motorists could see a drop in gas prices in a couple weeks. He said that on Friday the cost of a barrel of crude oil dropped a dollar. He said it will be a week, maybe two, before American gasoline retailers see the effect.

"But last night, the cost of gasoline went up seven-tenths of a cent," he said, addding that gas prices could go up some more before they come back down.