A tale of two prices

Craig fuel costs higher than low statewide average

With a statewide average of $2.20 per gallon, Colorado has the fourth-lowest fuel price in the United States, ranking behind only Missouri, Oklahoma and South Carolina.

Consumers in Craig aren't so fortunate.

According to the AAA of Colorado, Craig motorists are paying an average of $2.40 per gallon. That's a price on par with fuel costs in Maine, Rhode Island and Alaska ($2.42), based on a state-by-state average breakdown on the AAA Web site.

In fact, only 10 other states -- California, Hawaii and New York among them -- have higher per gallon prices than the $2.40 average in Craig.

AAA spokesman Eric Escudero said historically that Colorado gas prices are some of "lowest in the country in the winter, and some of the highest in the summer."

He said the statewide average is 14 cents lower than the national $2.34 average. The cheapest places to purchase gasoline in Colorado are Colorado Springs, with an average price of $2.14 per gallon, followed by Denver, with an average price of $2.15 per gallon.

Vail and Glenwood Springs, with prices of $2.51 and $2.49 per gallon, respectively, are the most expensive cities in the state.

Escudero said the disparity between winter and summer prices lies with, quite simply, supply and demand.

"Starting in the fall there is a drastic reduction in number of cars on the highway," he said. "Like any business, it's all about supply and demand."

Prices in Craig, and other areas in the Western Slope, are higher than statewide averages because of shipping costs, he said, and a lack of competition among gasoline stations.

According to the AAA's fuel price finder, there are seven stations in Craig, six of which are franchised by two companies, Kum and Go and Conoco, with three stations each.

"They don't have that competition," he said. "Reduction in competition means people selling gas in Craig can charge more because customers aren't as likely to go across the street to someplace else like in Denver where there is a station on every corner."

Barring a turn of national or world events, consumers can expect gasoline prices to hover around their current levels, Escudero said, until May. However, events can change quickly, altering prices in an instant, he added.

"It's geo-politics," he said. "For instance, anything happening in the Middle East that has a major impact on oil production can effect what we pay in Colorado and in Craig for gasoline."

He said the situation that AAA is keeping tabs on lies in Iran. It's unclear how the major oil producing country will respond to sanctions imposed by the United Nations.

If, for instance, Iran responds to the sanctions by disrupting oil production, the price of crude oil and gas prices would rise as a result, Escudero said.

"Predicting gas prices is very similar to trying to predict the stock market, or the weather, or if the Broncos are going to win on Sunday," he said. "There could always be an unforeseen development that will effect the outcome.

"But, for now, prices are lower. It's time to enjoy that."

Joshua Roberts can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or jroberts@craigdailypress.com.

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