Wednesday, August 24, 2005

County's gasoline prices lower than U.S. average

Express Staff Writer

Blaine County residents are not above average, at least when it comes to the price they're paying for gas.

Nationwide, the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline Tuesday was $2.61.

The average price in Hailey was $2.57, and just a penny more in Ketchum.

"The national average price is actually higher," said Dave Carlson, director of public affairs for AAA Oregon/Idaho. "That's got to be the first time in history. I will call it an odd circumstance."

Carlson said resort towns often see higher gas prices than other places, but the record nationwide gas price average this week has somehow surpassed Blaine County prices.

"I'd base it on a presumption that wholesale prices charged to Idaho gas stations are somewhat lower," he said, adding that profits for gas stations are likely still slim.

Last week, the national average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline increased by 17 cents, according to figures released by the American Automobile Association. Last month, motorists were paying on average 32 cents less than they are now.

And the numbers keep climbing.

"According to energy analysts, we shouldn't expect relief any time soon," AAA Public Affairs Director Elliott Eki said in a news release. "Global events, refinery problems and any hint that fuel production might be disrupted or cannot keep pace with strong demand are keeping the price of crude oil well over the $60 (per barrel) level."

A year ago, the average price nationwide was $1.88.

Idaho's average gas price Tuesday was $2.52. Boiseans are paying an average of $2.51 for a gallon of regular unleaded.

The national average price for diesel Tuesday was $2.65. Idaho's average diesel price was $2.83.

Despite the high gas prices, AAA expects plenty of people to hit the road over the Labor Day holiday weekend.

An estimated 34.5 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home this holiday, with approximately 83 percent of them going by motor vehicle, according to an agency news release.

AAA offers a few ways to trim motorists' gas budgets.

"Tire pressures being five to 10 pounds low, which is easy to do, can cut fuel efficiency quite drastically," Carlson said. "When the tires are low, there's more rolling resistance between the tire and road and that creates friction."

He said between 90 and 95 percent of cars manufactured today don't require more than 87-octane fuel.

"Use lower octane if that's what auto manufacturers suggest," he said.

"We encourage people to drive gently," he added. "Don't lead-foot it. If you avoid hard acceleration and braking, you'll use less gasoline."

His final suggestion?

"Use (alternate) transportation when it makes sense," he said.

And that's a category in which Blaine County residents come in above average.

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