06/29/11 — Gas prices on roller coaster ride

View Archive

Gas prices on roller coaster ride

By Emmett Strickland
Published in News on June 29, 2011 1:46 PM

Full Size


The price of gas has dropped significantly in the past few months but is still higher than it was at this time last year.

Gas prices in North Carolina jumped sharply this spring, going from an average of $3.13 per gallon in February to $3.83 in early May, according to the AAA. But Wayne County residents are finally feeling some relief.

Since May, fuel prices have dropped by an average of 34 cents, to an average of $3.49, in just two months, and people have noticed.

The decrease in cost was especially welcomed by people who drive for a living. Mail carriers Deborah and Frank Heines said, "We only get reimbursed but so much" for gas, so "every time we go out we enjoy it."

Rita Ray, a babysitter who commutes across the county for work also was pleased with the recent downward trend of fuel prices.

"I go from town to Walnut Creek to God only knows where .... So if the gas prices could keep going down, as much as I drive, that would be awesome," she said.

Neil Gamson, a spokesman for the U.S. Energy Information Administration, explained some of the reasons for the falling price of fuel. He said that a number of recent events caused the initial rise in costs earlier this year, but now that those issues have been cleared up, fuel prices may finally begin to go back down.

"There have been some refinery problems. That really raised prices," Gamson said. At the same time, domestic fuel production was stunted by the Mississippi River floods of April and May, he said.

Although gas prices have decreased since the problems were resolved, prices are still about 86 cents higher than the $2.83 average price at the pump a year ago. And some residents remain pessimistic about what the future will hold for the cost of fuel.

"They are going to go right back up as soon as the 4th of July gets here," said Herbert Kilpatrick, who was pumping gas at a Handy Mart on U.S. 70. "They need to go down faster."

He added that gas prices "need to get back down to $2.20 or $2.30" -- numbers that many Americans have not seen at the pump since 2009.

Gamson said he is confident that "prices are likely to level off or go down a little more," but he admitted that there are still a number of factors which could prevent gas prices from reaching such low levels in the near future.

The loss of Libyan crude oil, a result of that nation's ongoing civil war, has been one such reason behind the rise in the high price of oil, he said. Meanwhile, he explained that the shutdown of Japan's Fukishima I Nuclear Power Plant has caused that country to import more oil as a backup energy source, causing an increase in international demand.

Although Gamson believes that Wayne County drivers can still expect some degree of relief from the high gas prices of the last few months, he warned that the cost of oil is never entirely predictable.

"A lot of oil comes from areas that are politically unstable," he said, so any unforeseen turmoil in the major oil exporting countries could have a drastic impact on the price of gasoline in the United States.