Local gas prices are below national average

March 02, 2004|HERB BROCK

Danny West had just filled up his pickup truck this morning at the Kroger self-service station, where prices were $1.62 9/10 for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline, $1.72 9/10 for mid-grade or plus, and $1.82 9/10 for premium or super. While he wasn't happy at what he had to pay for the fill-up, he was counting his blessings.

"At least it's not as much as people are having to pay in other states where a gallon of regular (unleaded) is way over $2," said the Mitchellsburg construction worker.

Still, West said the rising cost of gas is starting to put a "pinch" on his budget.

"In my line of work, I have to do a lot of driving to different construction sites all over this region, and the price of gas has gotten so blasted high that I'm really starting to feel it in my wallet," he said.

"It hasn't reached the point where I have to get an extra job to cover the cost of my gas, but I am cutting back on an extra travel," he said. "When I drive somewhere it either has to be for work or food or something necessary, nothing fun.


"The thing about gas prices is that the oil companies know you have to have it, so they figure you will pay almost anything to get it."

A random survey this morning of Danville service stations and convenience stores indicated that West was correct in his observation that, as high as they are, local gas prices generally are lower than the national average.

Price has risen 25 cents a gallon since December

According to a national Lundberg Survey of some 8,000 stations released Sunday, the average price of gasoline at self-service was $1.72 9/10 for regular unleaded, $1.82 9/10 for mid-grade and $1.91 9/10 for premium. The prices had risen 6.9 cents a gallon on average since a survey conducted two weeks earlier and they had risen 25 cents a gallon on average since December.

In comparison, the random survey of eight Danville stations and stores showed most self-service prices for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline were in the $1.62 9/10 to $1.64 9/10 range with prices for mid-grade about 10 cents more than that and prices for premium about 10 cents higher than the mid-grade prices. The bottom line is that prices for gasoline at Danville stations and stores were about a dime less than the national average for each of the three grades.

Here is a sample of other Danville self-service gasoline prices as of this morning:

* Greenleaf BP, Lexington Road: Regular unleaded, $1.64 9/10; plus, $1.74 9/10; premium, $1.84 9/10.

* Nicholas Marathon, Hustonville Road: $1.74 9/10; mid-grade, $1.82 9/10.

* BP, Hustonville Road: Regular, $1.69 9/10; mid-grade, $1.79 9/10.

* Chills Quick Stop, Hustonville Road: Regular, $1.62 9/10; premium, $1.72 9/10.

* Marathon, Hustonville Road: Regular, $1.62 9/10; plus, $172 9/10; premium, $1.82 9/10.

Chambers has seen a great fluctuation in the prices in 34 years

Paul Chambers Sr., manager of the Marathon on Hustonville Road, said he has seen a great fluctuation in gas prices over the 34 years he has owned and operated the station, which used to be a Bonded Oil station.

"In 1971, the price for a gallon of regular gasoline was 17 9/10 cents," said Chambers. "At one point last year, it was $1.89 9/10 a gallon, which so far is the highest I've ever charged for a gallon of regular gasoline."

Despite the general public's concerns that gas prices are, at best, set on a whim or, at worst, set as a way to gouge customers, Chambers said he and most other retailers do some research when setting their prices.

"Of course, you start with what the wholesaler sells it to us and then you compare that price with what other retailers locally are selling it," he said. "And then you try to make your price as competitive as possible, trying to give customers the lowest price possible while still making some money or at least breaking even."

As part of his price-setting process, Chambers conducts a driving survey of local gasoline retailers. He said he drives around Danville to check the prices on the pumps of his competitors. He said he cannot, by law, call his competitors because that could be seen as part of a conspiracy to fix prices.

"Before I get to work each morning, I drive around to check on prices, and then I do it again about 2:30 (p.m.) every afternoon," he said.

"I know some people think we (gasoline retailers) just pull prices out of the air," said Chambers. "I'm sympathetic to the complaints, but we actually do put thought and research in setting prices. We have to deal with what wholesalers are charging, what competitors are charging, the financial concerns of customers and our own financial considerations."

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