Actions can drive down gas prices

Published 12:03 am Thursday, May 12, 2011

Consumers can alter the price of gas by shopping at the cheapest-priced station and taking measures to conserve fuel. | File photo

As gas prices top $3.85 in some parts of the county, officials say motorists have the ability to drive the costs down on two fronts.

“Motorists can make a big difference in what we pay for gas,” said AAA spokesman Clay Ingram. “We have two very powerful tools at our disposal to help keep our prices lower – one, fuel conservation, and two, price shopping.”

Fuel conservation

“We tend to do a good job with fuel conservation when prices get high, as they are now, but we can do better,” Ingram said. “Decreasing our demand will always help to keep our prices lower.”

But just how can residents cut down on the amount of fuel used?

• Cut down on the number of trips, when possible. Combine errands into one trip. Several short trips from a cold start can use twice as much fuel as a longer, more multipurpose trip that covers the same distance.

• Avoid heavy traffic. Avoiding more stop and go traffic consumes less fuel.

• Use cars with higher fuel efficiency. Say you and your husband own a gas-guzzling SUV and a small import car, drive the one that gets the best gas mileage. If you both commute, you can save money and gas if the one with the longest drive takes the vehicle with the best gas mileage.

• If you must drive, do so sensibly. Aggressive driving wastes fuel. Statistics show it can lower your gas mileage by as much as 33 percent.

• Clean out your car. Remove excessive weight. Only ride with what you need in your car. An extra 100 pounds could reduce the miles per gallon by 2 percent.

Price shopping

For some locals, it’s just not feasible to cut out daily trips, because it’s part of their careers, however, price shopping could play a big role in the price at the pump, Ingram said.

“We are not price shopping at all,” he said. “Not at all. We are all creatures of habit, and we tend to buy gas from our local station because it is convenient.”

Instead, Ingram recommends paying attention to the price of gas along the daily commute.

“We should all be watching prices throughout our normal travel area and make a dedicated effort to buy from the lowest priced station we can find.”

By purchasing fuel from the lowest priced station, Ingram said it will reintroduce competition into the marketplace and will make a big difference in gas prices in the area.

If a competitor is at a certain price, the competition can’t continue to keep their prices as high because they lose business.

In Andalusia, the price differential is as high as 25 cents per gallon, while in Opp it’s as high as 9 cents.

Prices locally

Local gas prices continue to inch their way closer to the $4 per gallon mark.

In Opp, which is the cheapest place to purchase gas in Covington County, the average price is $3.78 a gallon.

Florala has the highest average at $3.85 per gallon.

In Andalusia the average is $3.80 per gallon, which is down from last week’s average of $3.81 per gallon.

The cheapest place in the county to purchase gas , according to AAA, is the Cannon Oil station on River Falls Street, where gas is selling for $3.74 a gallon. The most expensive is at the Corner Market at $3.99 per gallon.

Those looking to take Memorial Day trips may be hit hard with gas prices, even if they take a small fuel-efficient car.

The average cost to fuel a vehicle with a 15-gallon tank is more than $57.

Still Ingram said while he does think residents will likely see gas prices increase a little bit over the next few months, he doesn’t think prices will.

“I honestly don’t believe we will break the $4 per gallon barrier in Alabama,” he said. “We’re only (20) cents away from that mark, so it is obviously a possibility, but I believe we have a pretty good ‘cushion’ built into our prices right now that can absorb a decent increase in demand.”