Relief at the pump? |

Relief at the pump?

Gas prices dropping

After record-high fuel prices in September, prices across the nation have fallen by about 35 cents per gallon in the past three weeks.

And pump prices could continue to decline steadily, according to the America Automobile Association, which tracks pump prices.

“It appears as though we can expect it to come down a little more,” AAA Colorado spokesman Rod Manuel said.

But will prices come down in Craig, where consumers are paying more than residents in other areas of Colorado?

AAA doesn’t make predictions or projections, Manuel said. That’s hard to predict, industry observers said. But based on recent trends, Colorado’s average of $2.69 per gallon price could drop substantially in the coming weeks.

While the state average for a gallon of self-serve unleaded dropped to $2.69, down 9.5 cents from last week, a gallon of gas on the Western Slope remained about 10 cents higher than the state average, according the AAA Fuel Gauge Report.

The report doesn’t list averages for every county in the state, but at $2.99 a gallon, Craig’s gas prices are higher than in other towns in the region.

In Glenwood Springs, the average price for a gallon of unleaded Wednesday was $2.802. In Durango, the average was $2.862.

Relief in Craig?

Whether a drop in the state average will equate to a drop in prices for Craig isn’t certain.

Paula Haughey, manager at Trevenen Oil Distributing in Craig, said she couldn’t predict whether Craig’s record-high gas prices would come down in the coming weeks.

“If I could predict the future in fuel, I would be a multi-billionaire,” Haughey said.

At local gas stations Wednesday, customers said they were hopeful fuel would come down soon.

“I hope they go down,” Stephanie Hampton of Craig said as she filled her tank at the north Kum & Go.

Hampton, 36, said she worked in Steamboat Springs this summer and gas prices were lower there than in Craig –sometimes by as much as 30 cents per gallon.

Welcome news

Falling gas prices are welcome in Mofatt County, where more than 21 percent of residents commute to Routt County.

Even when prices were high, Hampton said she didn’t change her driving habits much.

“If you need gas, you have to pay for it,” she said.

At the Go-Fer Foods on the town’s east end, Chris Zinn of Clark filled the tank of his pickup truck after a hunting trip.

He said gas prices in Craig are higher than they are in Clark, a tiny town in Routt County.

“They seem to hammer the people around here a little more,” he said.

Zinn said gas stations are partly to blame for the high prices.

When the price of a barrel of fuel goes up, gas stations seem to raise prices right away, he said. And when the price of a barrel falls, it takes gas stations a few days to lower their prices, he said.

Misdirected blame?

Gas prices are linked directly to the cost of crude oil. Increased global demand, refinery fires and outages, hurricanes and unrest in the Middle East pushed crude oil to record highs this year. But oil prices Wednesday dropped nearly $2 and ended below $61 on reports of strong inventories.

Gas stations don’t deserve the blame for prices, said Jeff Lenard, spokesman for the National Association of Convenience Stores, a trade group.

“Retailers as much as customers would love to see prices decline,” Lenard said.

After expenses, Lenard said retailers make 1 to 2 cents in profit on a gallon of gas.

Lenard said gas stations make their profits on selling products in the store, not on gas.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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