Gas prices drop slightly

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 29, 2004

When gas prices reached record highs last month, some motorists swore they would abandon their vehicles in favor of rollerblading. Others thought about carpooling to work.

But most simply climbed behind their steering wheels and puttered down the road to work, to shop and to play, shelling out more money per gallon of gasoline than anyone could have imagined paying during the same time last summer.

This week, the lowest prices for gasoline in the county hovered around $1.69 for 87 octane. The cheapest gasoline in Shelby County is usually found at Wal-Mart gas stations and Race Trac.

Other stores in various parts of the county featured prices ranging from about $1.70 to $1.80 per gallon of 87 octane gasoline.

On Tuesday, the average price of gasoline in Alabama was $1.80, down from the record-high $1.93 a month ago. Compared to last year’s average of $1.39, price increases are extreme, said Greg Womble of AAA of Alabama.

Metropolitan Birmingham’s average gas price Tuesday was $1.78 per gallon.

This week, gas prices dropped several cents. From Monday to Tuesday, prices dropped two cents in the state, a decrease Womble called &uot;very dramatic.&uot;

Womble attributes the dramatic decrease in prices to the prevalence of low-cost gas stations such as Race Trac and Wal-Mart. Sometimes, the two bargain gas stations beat competitors by as much as 20 cents per gallon.

&uot;More and more cheap stations are popping up, lowering the average,&uot; Womble said.

According to Womble, gas prices are closely tied to national and international outlooks. Optimism about the transfer of sovereignty in Iraq seems to have bolstered the nation’s fuel reserves, he said.

&uot;There seems to be some optimism about the new sovereignty in Iraq. There’s more gas inventory on the ground in the U.S. right now than there has been in a while,&uot; Womble said.

That means there is more gas available than people use. The drop in retail gasoline prices are consistent with the drop in wholesale and crude oil costs.

&uot;We’ve bought more than we’re able to use,&uot; Womble said. On Monday, the price of crude oil from OPEC was $36 a barrel, the lowest price in two months. At its worst, gas prices in the county approached the $2 per gallon mark. The highest average gas prices ever recorded in the state were $1.93 on May 29. For some people, it was enough to make them change driving habits.

Richard Griffies, a Montevallo resident who drives about 20 miles to Hoover for work each day, said he tried everything to save money on gas. For instance, he started buying gas at stations with the cheapest prices.

&uot;I definitely pay more attention now to where I stop for gas,&uot; Griffies said. &uot;If the store down the street is a couple cents cheaper, then that’s where I’m going.&uot;

Also, Griffies said he began combining trips in his blue Toyota Corolla in order to save gas, he didn’t accelerate as fast on the interstate and he used the air conditioner less.

&uot;I just don’t want to make it worse by running the car too hard,&uot; he said