Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Idaho bucks nationwide gas price drop

Some motorists in the South will see low prices this Labor Day, but Idaho residents continue to deal


By AMY BUSEK
Express Staff Writer

Last summer, the Mountain View Grocery store south of Ketchum was promoting ethanol-free gasoline for sale. Express file photo

    While gasoline prices are dropping statewide, consumers in Idaho, and particularly in the Wood River Valley, aren’t getting much relief. Statewide, Idaho’s prices this summer have slightly decreased from last year, but only by a few cents.
    The average price of gas per gallon in Idaho as of Aug. 26 was $3.77 per gallon, compared with a national average of $3.43 per gallon, according to AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report.  
    Gas prices in the Wood River Valley are among the highest in the state. As of Tuesday, prices in Ketchum averaged $3.99 per gallon, $3.89 per gallon in Hailey and $3.79 per gallon in Bellevue, according to GasBuddy.com, an online gasoline price tracker for the United States and Canada. GasBuddy data shows that gas stations in Coeur d’Alene in northern Idaho are the lowest statewide, with one Costco station there offering unleaded gas at $3.50 per gallon.
    Idaho’s prices were the seventh-highest in the nation, according to an Aug. 25 press release from AAA Idaho. Hawaii’s prices are sky-high at an average of $4.31 per gallon, with Alaska coming in second at $4.07 per gallon, according to AAA. West Coast states California, Oregon and Washington average higher prices than Idaho as well.
    Nonetheless, prices in Idaho are lower than they were a year ago, if only by a couple of cents; in August 2013, the statewide average was $3.82 per gallon. A few hundred stations in Southern states offered regular gasoline at under $3 per gallon this week, according to GasBuddy senior petroleum analyst Patrick DeHaan. Only 1.5 percent of gas stations nationwide are selling regular gas at over $4 a gallon, he said in an Aug. 25 GasBuddy press release.
    According to The Associated Press, states within the continental United States that buck gasoline decrease trends usually do so because of a lack of competition. When two gas stations are located right next to each other, they usually engage in price wars, trying to out-compete each other. With the number of gas stations in the Wood River Valley mirroring the smaller population, prices are able to stagnate without much outcry from citizens.
    In 2006, Idaho’s high gas prices in the face of decreased numbers nationwide were attributed to a lack of competition. American Petroleum Institute representative Rayola Doughter told the AP that the Boise area receives all its motor-vehicle fuel from two 6-inch pipelines, one carrying gas and the other diesel, from Salt Lake City. That and a lack of market competition make wholesale prices high. In 2006, Idaho’s gas prices were third highest in the country and the highest in the continental United States.
    The reasons for the trend of higher gas prices in the West aren’t easily explainable, according to AAA Idaho spokesman Dave Carlson, though he said the singular source for gasoline, via the pipeline which runs from Salt Lake City to Pasco, Wash., puts Idaho “at risk” for pricing monopolies.
    “The West is particularly bereft of any good sourcing of product availability like you’ll see east of the Mississippi,” Carlson said, adding that alternative gas sources would need to be trucked into the state.
Amy Busek: abusek@mtexpress.com




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