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Demand, Iraq strife may boost gas prices
Local costs fluctuating
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Gas prices in Collinsville were around 3.299 a gallon for regular on Wednesday, this photograph shows. That is 37 cents a gallon less than the national average reported by AAA. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Statewide and nationally, gasoline prices are climbing closer to their spring 2014 peaks as escalating tensions in Iraq and higher than expected demand contribute to a surge in the price of crude oil.

According to a AAA news release issued Monday, the national average price for regular unleaded gasoline was $3.66 per gallon — fractions of a penny more than a week ago, a little more than a cent pricier than a month ago, and a nickel per gallon more than the same date last year. The average was $3.669 on Wednesday, according to AAA.

Locally, gas prices have fluctuated, but some are predicting they will move higher.

Prices at six businesses observed in the Martinsville and Ridgeway areas ranged from $3.249 to $3.339 per gallon for regular gasoline on Wednesday. At least three Collinsville businesses were selling regular gas for $3.299 a gallon.

According to the Motor Trend website, prices for regular gasoline in Henry County (updated Wednesday) generally ranged from $3.259 to $3.349 per gallon for regular gasoline for businesses listed.

According to AAA Fuel Price Finder, prices updated Wednesday for regular gasoline ranged from $3.259 to $3.309 per gallon for businesses listed in the Martinsville area.

It showed the Martinsville area average as $3.290 per gallon, compared with $2.92 last week, $3.353 last month, $2.979 six months ago and $3.236 last year. All of those prices were lower than averages for comparable periods in the Richmond and Arlington (in Northern Virginia) areas, according to data on AAA Fuel Price Finder.

Steve Wallace, owner of Wallace Exxon in Collinsville, said the price went up 9 cents on Tuesday. Regular gasoline was selling for $3.299 per gallon on Wednesday at his business.

“The guy I get my gas from says it’s going to get up to $3.80 or $3.90. ... I think it will by the end of summer,” Wallace said. “That would cut my gas business in half,” he estimated.

He said he already has lost business because of about a 10-cent increase in prices over about two months.

“It looks like the government would do something about it. If they want to improve the economy, they ought to do something to lower the cost of fuel,” he said.

He and Carrie Wells, owner of Buck’s Fuels in Martinsville, both said gasoline prices typically rise before holidays. They said they think the upcoming July 4 holiday and the unrest in Iraq are factors in the recent prices.

“I have seen a minimal increase thus far,” Wells said. “I do foresee an increase in gasoline prices.”

She said the price of gasoline went up 10 cents Tuesday and went down 6 cents Wednesday.

After falling for nine straight days, the national average increased for five consecutive days for a total of about 2 cents per gallon as violence in Iraq intensified, the release stated.

AAA has predicted that drivers will pay relatively high prices this summer, ranging from $3.55 to $3.70 per gallon, but the range may be higher if unrest in Iraq escalates or disrupts oil production in the region, according to the Monday release. Given the increase in crude oil prices to nearly a nine-month high, retail gas prices are likely to rise to or near the current 2014 high ($3.70 on April 28) in the coming days, according to the release.

Gas prices often decline in June, with the national average falling the previous three years at an average of about 20 cents per gallon. The turmoil in Iraq is likely to prevent that trend from repeating this year, according to the release.

According to a AAA Mid-Atlantic news release issued Tuesday, as of that day, Virginia’s average gas price ($3.46 per gallon) was 6 cents lower than the current state 2014 peak.

This time last year, motorists were paying less at the pump while gas price trends were sloping downward, the release said. The Iraqis violence is likely to prevent that trend from repeating this year. Escalating tensions in Iraq married with higher than expected demand contributed to the surge in the price of crude oil, which closed at $106.90 on Monday, the release stated.

“It’s never the right time to see gas prices rise; however, the timing could not be worse for motorists as we get closer to the July 4th holiday,” said Martha Mitchell Meade, AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman. “For many travelers, this could mean a quick change of plans to stay closer to home and avoid the dreaded pain at the pump.”

According to the release, Virginia has the seventh lowest gas price in the country.

AAA offers these fuel-saving tips for motorists:

Accelerate gradually. Avoid jackrabbit starts.

Anticipate your stops. When approaching a red light, let your foot off the gas as early as possible.

Avoid long warm-ups in the morning. They’re unnecessary and waste fuel.

Use air conditioning. Today’s air conditioners create less drag on the engine than driving with the windows open.

Maintain recommended tire pressure. Low pressure reduces fuel economy and can damage tires.

Keep the air filter clean. Clogged filters reduce fuel economy and increase exhaust emissions.

Slow down. If you travel at 60 mph instead of 70 mph on your 20-mile highway commute, you would save about 1.3 gallons of gas in a five-day work week.

Combine errands. If possible, park in a central spot and walk from place to place.

Don’t use your trunk for storage. The heavier your car, the more fuel it uses.

Shop around for the best price.


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