Gas prices lower, but how much?

Craig more expensive compared to national and state averages than before drop

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Local gas gauge

Regular unleaded and diesel prices, per gallon, as of Monday morning:

Sinclair, 666 W. First St.

• Unleaded: $2.08

• Diesel: $2.93

Conoco, 140 W. Victory Way

• Unleaded: $2.16

• Diesel: $2.99

Petrowest, 301 School Road

• Unleaded: $2.19

• Diesel: $3.07

Loaf 'N Jug, 2441 W. Victory Way

• Unleaded: $2.19

• Diesel: $3.09

Kum & Go, 1302 W. Victory Way

• Unleaded: $2.19

• Diesel: $3.09

Kum & Go, 895 Yampa Ave.

• Unleaded: $2.19

• Diesel: $3.09

Kum & Go, 700 E. Victory Way

• Unleaded: $2.19

• Diesel: $3.09

Gofer Foods (Conoco), 923 E. Victory Way

• Unleaded: $2.19

• Diesel: $3.09

Trevco, 702 Industrial Ave.

• Unleaded: $2.26

• Diesel: $3.09

By the numbers

The average price in Craig for a gallon of regular unleaded gas or diesel has gone down, but it is comparatively more expensive than state and national averages than two months ago, when prices began to fall.

Craig average:

Oct. 2

Unleaded: $3.93

- 110 percent of state average (35 cents more per gallon)

- 109 percent of national average (32 cents more per gallon)

Diesel: $4.33

- 104 percent of state average (18 cents more per gallon)

- 106 percent of national average (25 cents more per gallon)

Dec. 1

Unleaded: $2.18

- 125 percent of state average (43 cents more per gallon)

- 120 percent of national average (36 cents more per gallon)

Diesel: $3.05

- 113 percent of state average (36 cents more per gallon)

- 111 percent of national average (31 cents more per gallon)

Colorado average:

Oct. 2

Unleaded: $3.52

Diesel: $4.15

Dec. 1

Unleaded: $1.75

Diesel: $2.69

National average:

Oct. 2

Unleaded: $3.61

Diesel: $4.08

Dec. 1

Unleaded: $1.82

Diesel: $2.74

Regular unleaded gas prices fell about 10 cents around Craig between Sunday and Monday, continuing a roughly two-month trend.

Prices first began to go down almost immediately after state Rep. Al White, R-Hayden, sent a letter to the Colorado Attorney General's Office requesting an inquiry into price discrepancies around the region.

White's question was how gas prices could be so different between communities. For instance, Craig's long-standing reputation of being about 20 cents more expensive per gallon than in Steamboat Springs.

White, recently elected to state Senate, joined the cause after his election opponent, Ken Brenner, raised the issue in August on behalf of Glenwood Springs consumers.

However, despite local unleaded prices falling an average of $1.75 a gallon since reports of White's inquiry surfaced Oct. 2, Craig stations are comparatively more expensive now than two months ago.

On Oct. 2, the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded in Craig was $3.93, or 109 percent of the national average and 32 cents higher.

As of Monday, the average Craig price was $2.18, or 120 percent of the national average and 36 cents higher.

The trend continues with state averages.

On Oct. 2, the Craig average was 110 percent of the state average and 35 cents higher. On Monday, Craig was 125 percent of the state average and 43 cents higher.

Average prices for a gallon of diesel are similarly more expensive.

White said that when he first sent his correspondence to the Attorney General's Office, officials contacted him and said they would look into it, but White didn't think they held much hope for being able to prove anything illegal, such as price fixing.

He added that if current legal avenues are not enough to prosecute gas distributors or lower prices, he doesn't think the Legislature should step in and create new laws to govern the cost of filling up.

"What do you do?" he said. "Do you tell someone what they can sell their product for? I've never seen any legislative action work when it's dictating prices."

The best authority to govern prices is a healthy free market, White said, stressing he would like to see added competition coming from grocery stores, which sometimes offer gas discounts to their customers.

He also pointed out that Craig gas stations now are generally cheaper than their Steamboat counterparts.

Nate Strauch, communications director for the Attorney General's Office, said the state is looking into who owns what and their prices, but the matter is an ongoing investigation.

What's bringing down prices?

Although political actions don't seem to have done much to ease Western Slope gas prices, they are going down.

AAA spokesperson Wave Dreher said her organization projects prices will keep getting lower at least until Jan. 1, 2009, though a slight price hike during the end of the year should be expected because of increased holiday travel.

The main reason gas prices have come down is because oil has come down, Dreher said. The same barrel of crude that sold for about $148 this summer now goes for around $55.

She added that some American refineries also are back online after last year's hurricane season shut them down, which had temporarily reduced supply.

The last big factor, Dreher said, is that demand has fallen.

She warned that if consumers forget their newfound habits of consuming less fuel, gas prices assuredly would go back up.

"We should all enjoy the holiday present we have, that little extra cash we have to spend now that we're not buying as-expensive gasoline," Dreher said. "But, we have short memories. We had expensive gas before, and we can have expensive gas again."

Collin Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or cesmith@craigdailypress.com

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