Even with relief, gas prices still hurting localsPublished 12:13am Monday, July 9, 2012
NATCHEZ — Even though gasoline prices have dropped significantly in recent months, local consumers say they are still feeling the pain in the wallet every time they fill up.Academy
According to AAA, the national average for gasoline prices at the pump has fallen approximately 61 cents per gallon since April.
But for DJ Leach, that still isn’t enough to ensure he gets to see his family every day because of the distance he has to travel to work and the cost of getting there and back.
“I have to travel three-and-a-half hours for work, and it hurts,” Leach said. “Gas prices really hurt.”
But then there are other emotions picking up the pump handle can evoke.
Vanessa Tillman said she gets mad when seeing gas prices lower in other places, but high in Natchez.
“I wish we could follow the same pattern,” Tillman said.
Tillman said she visited Jackson recently and the prices were a lot lower. The lowest gas prices in the state over the weekend were $2.80. Natchez’s highest prices sat around $3.29.
Independent Oil Company Owner Charles Zucarro, who operates a number of local service stations, said prices in Natchez are partly determined by the starting point. For example, suppliers who pull gasoline from a terminal in Collins are paying seven cents a gallon less than those who pull from a terminal in Baton Rouge. Independent’s supply comes from Baton Rouge, and when factors like freight weight are factored in, prices reflect that, Zucarro said.
“When you pull 9,000 gallons a load, that adds up to a pretty good chunk of change, especially when you are pulling 10 loads a day.”
Michael Wright, vice president for public affairs for the AAA region that covers Mississippi, said gasoline prices are subject to many factors, from weather in the Gulf of Mexico to the stock market, economic conditions in Europe and increased international anxiety about the Middle East.
“Most people don’t realize just what affects the price of oil,” Wright said. “It is a worldwide commodity, so what happens in the Middle East does affect the price you pay at the corner gas station.”
But some price increases have less complex answers. For example, Wright said the yearly changeover from winter to summer fuel now has a more dramatic impact on prices than it used to.
“It has nothing to do with demand, it has to do with the building of stock,” Wright said.
“A lot of the refining operations go into a maintenance mode just prior to spring, and (prices rise when) some of them haven’t gotten up and running just yet.”
As more refineries come back into operation during the summer months, prices drop.
But while prices have been lower, Zucarro said consumers could expect the cost at the pump to start going up again in the near future.
“Since Monday gas has gone up 25 cents a gallon, we just haven’t moved at the pumps yet,” he said.
“We are not covering our credit card fees right now.”
Wright agreed, saying he thinks prices will soon adjust upward because the prices most consumers are seeing at the pump are based on when crude oil was trading at $80 a barrel. Light, sweet crude oil for August delivery was trading at $84.45 Friday.
Statewide, the average price of regular grade gasoline was $3.04 a gallon Saturday.