Gainesville gas prices are state's highest

City average is $1.69 for regular unleaded

Published: Friday, January 16, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 16, 2004 at 12:31 a.m.
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AAA says gas prices in Gainesville are the highest in the state.

MICHAEL C. WEIMAR/The Gainesville Sun
Gas prices in Gainesville top the list as the highest of any other metro area in the state so far this month, with the average cost of regular unleaded reaching $1.692 per gallon, according to the AAA monthly fuel gauge report.
Based on the report, Gainesville area gas prices are No. 1, followed by the West Palm Beach/Boca Raton area, where the average regular unleaded price is $1.665 per gallon.
The lowest average for self-serve unleaded regular gas in Florida can be found in Pensacola, where the average price was $1.559 per gallon, according to the report.
Gainesville residents looking for lower gas prices may have to stray from their regular routes to do some comparison shopping between gas stations in different parts of town.
"It's just the price of doing business in this town," said David Thomas, the president and owner of Thomas Oil Co. in Gainesville. He said he doesn't see the price coming down, in Gainesville or around the country.
Yoli Buss, the director of traffic safety for AAA Auto Club South, said that cold weather, the lower value of the dollar and the rising price of crude oil are all responsible for rising gas prices in Gainesville and across the nation.
Buss also said that the small number of gas stations, linked with the price of bringing the gas from port cities such as Tampa and Jacksonville, tend to cause the higher prices generally seen in Gainesville.
According to AAA Auto Club South, since the December fuel gauge report, the average price of self-serve regular unleaded gasoline in the state of Florida has risen 14.2 cents per gallon to an average of $1.623.
Nationwide, the increase was 9.6 cents, reaching $1.570 for regular unleaded.
David Mica, the Florida Petroleum Council's executive director, said that the best indicator for gas prices is the price of crude oil. With oil prices up $7 since December, topping $35 per barrel, the high cost of gas is to be expected.
According to the automobile association, Mica and independent oil companies, while high gas prices can be blamed on high crude oil prices, the price of oil is linked to the extremely cold winter temperatures, as well as the production of the oil.
These individuals explained that the cold weather creates the need to shift some of the oil used in gas for cars to the production of gas for heating homes, and oil companies look at forecasts to determine the amount of oil that will be needed and adjust the prices accordingly.
"A great deal of the price of crude oil comes from speculation and rumor," said Jim Smith, President of Florida Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Associates (FPMA). "It's not as difficult to understand when you recognize the human element."
Both Mica and Smith said that additional costs for refineries across the country switching to low-sulfur fuel production will keep the price of fuel high.
Producing the low-sulfur fuel means that fewer gallons of refined fuel can be taken from the crude oil, Smith said.
He also said that while prices have gone up recently, they still have not reached the level they were after the terrorist attacks in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.
"We hate the way the price is just as much as the consumer," said Smith, whose organization represents independent oil companies. "Just like it costs you more to run your car, it costs us more to run our businesses."
Smith also said that while he agrees that prices have risen, he does not believe the AAA claims on fuel prices are accurate.
In response, the association said the averages reported were taken from OPIS, a database of U.S. wholesale petroleum prices, and do not reflect information gathered by AAA.

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