Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Gas prices mirror national average

Express Staff Writer

It cost Vince Alcocer of Gannett $51 to fill up his vehicle on Monday in Bellevue. "Something has to give," Alcocer said. "This is ridiculous. Even the ordinary worker cannot afford these prices." Photo by Willy Cook

While Idaho's average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline remained among the cheapest in the nation Tuesday, according to figures obtained from AAA, prices in the Wood River Valley were either similar or just below the national average of $2.92 per gallon.

The national average was $2.50 just a month ago and $2.22 a year ago.

On Tuesday, the price for a gallon of regular unleaded gas was $2.91 at one gas station in Ketchum and $2.80 at a Main Street Hailey gas station.

Based on figures provided by AAA Idaho, the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in Idaho Tuesday was $2.63. Idaho motorists were paying $2.39 on April 10 and $2.33 per gallon average on April 3.

Idaho's status as one of the cheapest places in the nation to buy gasoline has surprised many experts. "We're still lagging behind the national average," said AAA Idaho spokesman Dave Carlson.

The more common scenario is of Idaho being near the most expensive in the nation, he said. The primary reason for Idaho's typical status as one of the most expensive places to buy gas has much to do with the distance to oil refineries, Carlson said.

"We are isolated from other markets," he said.

Carlson said gas prices in Idaho and across the nation will likely continue to rise at least through Memorial Day, at which point prices may begin to stabilize. "We think the prices will probably stabilize this summer," he said.

That Idaho has remained cheaper than the national average likely has much to do with the restraint recently shown by the wholesale marketplace when setting the state's gasoline prices, Carlson said.

Unfortunately for Idaho motorists, however, the trend won't continue forever, he cautioned. "We're not going to stay there," Carlson said. "Idaho's prices will rise."

Idaho's average price will likely be in the $2.80 to $2.90 range within a few weeks, he said.

Nationally, gasoline prices in some markets are already well above the average record price of $3.057 set on Sept. 5, 2005, according to a AAA Idaho press release. The crippling effect Hurricane Katrina had on refineries in the Gulf Coast region and on the pipelines that serve major regions of the country helped push prices up 60 cents in a matter of days last fall.

On Tuesday, only three states had a lower average price than Idaho's average price of $2.63 per gallon of regular unleaded gasoline. Those states were Utah, with an average price is $2.62, Montana, with an average price of $2.60 per gallon, and Wyoming, whose average price of $2.55 Tuesday made it the cheapest in the nation.

In the neighboring states of Oregon and Washington, the average price Tuesday for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline was $2.85 and $2.91, respectively.

Hawaii's average price Tuesday of $3.23 a gallon ranks it as the most expensive state to buy gasoline in the nation, while California's $3.14 a gallon ranks it second most expensive.

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