Area prices lower, but still among highest in the state


A car drives past a sign showing gas prices at the Mobil station on Williston Road on Monday.

AARON DAYE / The Gainesville Sun
Published: Tuesday, January 23, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 23, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.
Times have certainly changed when motorists are relieved to see gasoline prices dip toward $2 a gallon.

But recall that it was closer to $3 in August.

The average price of a gallon of regular unleaded gas has gone down 14 cents nationwide over two weeks on the heels of dropping crude oil prices.

Last week, an unusually warm winter in the United States and numbers showing growing crude inventories had dragged oil prices below $50 a barrel, The Associated Press reported. After volatile trading Monday, oil prices closed at $51.13 a barrel.

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Prices have already gone below $2 a gallon in the Midwest and may do so soon in parts of Florida. The average in Georgia was $2.06 Monday.

"I have every confidence we will be seeing gasoline at or below $2 a gallon," said Jim Smith, president of the Florida Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association in Tallahassee.

The statewide average was $2.25 Monday, down 10 cents from last month and down 15 cents from a year ago, according to AAA Auto Club South.

Monday's national average was $2.16 for regular, down 18 cents from last month and 17 cents from last year. Diesel averaged $2.55, down 15 cents from last month and 1 cent from a year ago.

Gainesville averaged $2.28 Monday, with a reported range of $2.14 to $2.39. Of 12 metropolitan areas, Tampa reported the lowest average with $2.18 Monday while Fort Myers had the highest at $2.30.

Gainesville's average is near the highest in the state.

Those looking to blame local gas taxes for the high average may be surprised to learn that Alachua County is one of 27 counties that charges 13.2 cents a gallon, with 20 counties charging more, including a high of 18.2 cents, according to the Florida Department of Revenue.

Alachua County commissioners are considering an additional 5-cent tax to pay for road improvements.

The state taxes 15.3 cents a gallon, with an increase of .04 cents Jan. 1 as part of an annual increase tied to the Consumer Price Index. Federal taxes are 18.4 cents a gallon. Combined, Alachua County motorists pay 46.9 cents a gallon in taxes.

Some say Alachua County's gas is more expensive because of the added costs of distribution and property taxes recouped at the pump.

"You all happen to be where there's some of the highest transportation costs," Smith said. Gainesville gets its gas from Orlando and Jacksonville, he said, with gas costing more if the distributors drive farther.

Things such as property taxes, utilities and payroll go into the pump cost, Smith said.

"It's not just what crude oil is," he said.

As for variations around town, Smith said different distributors charge different prices and the same distributor will even charge various stores different prices.

Chiman Patel owns the Williston Road Chevron, which at $2.14 had one of the lowest prices on Monday. He said he has to set his prices based on what the other stores in the neighborhood are doing.

"We have too much competition. We make a very low profit," he said.

Customers at the Kangaroo station noticed the lower prices.

"This is the best I've seen in a while," said Robin Bellonay of Trenton. She said she spends about $60 a week on gas.

Leon Godwin, a roofer, drives his work van all over town and tries to buy at the Williston exit whenever he's in the area, figuring he saves up to $3 a tank. He also fills up whenever he's in Ocala, saying it's 7 to 8 cents cheaper than Gainesville.

Dan Long filled up his Ford Explorer, which gets 15 miles a gallon. "I try to ride my motorcycle as much as possible," he said. Long said he hasn't let higher prices in recent years change his driving habits, but would consider a more fuel-efficient vehicle if gas moved up to $3 or $3.50 and stayed there.

While a dip in oil prices lowers costs when the refined oil hits the pump, Smith said gas prices go up as soon as oil prices go up so refiners will have the money on hand to pay for the crude.

Anthony Clark can be reached at anthony.clark@ gvillesun.com or 374-5094.

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