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Area drivers seeing less pain at the pump

Published: Friday, July 18, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, July 18, 2014 9:15 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Sandy Bressner - sbressner@shawmedia.com)
Eugene Kipper of Batavia fills up a gas can for his riding lawnmower outside the Mobil gas station on Batavia Avenue in Batavia. Gas prices are steadily declining.
Caption
(Sandy Bressner - sbressner@shawmedia.com)
The Mobil gas station on Batavia Avenue in Batavia. Gas prices are steadily declining.

Batavia resident Chris Winkle is thankful that gas prices are dropping these days as she gassed up at the Batavia Avenue Mobil station Thursday morning.

“Between filling my tank and filling my teenager’s tank, it has made life easier,” Winkle said.

And prices continue to drop. After Winkle drove off, an employee at the station changed the price for a gallon of regular gasoline from $3.59 to $3.55

Average retail gas prices in Illinois have fallen about 7 cents a gallon in the past week, according to Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for the gasoline price website GasBuddy.com, And prices are likely to continue to drop, he said.

“We’ve seen over 30 straight days now of prices dropping across the state,” DeHaan said. “This decrease started June 15.”

According to GasBuddy.com, the average price for a regular gallon of gas in Illinois on Thursday was $3.67, higher than the national average of $3.58 a gallon. A week ago, the average price of gas in Illinois was $3.75 for a regular gallon of gas. Before the decrease, DeHaan noted that gas prices in Illinois had jumped because of the tense situation in Iraq, a leading oil producing country. But the market isn’t as jittery these days about that situation, he said.

“Now, the market has cooled off,” he said. “Refineries have increased production of gasoline, especially in the Great Lakes region, which is one of the areas that was hardest hit. The situation in Iraq was happening right around the same time some refinery issues had developed. Now those issues have been resolved.”

An increase in domestic oil production also is driving gas prices downward, DeHaan said.

“Oil production here in the United States is booming,” he said. “There are areas of North Dakota that have gone from three million barrels a month in 2005 in oil production to over 30 million barrels a month today. We’re talking about a tenfold increase over the last 10 or so years in areas of North Dakota.”

Gas prices in the Tri-Cities area vary widely. For example, gas was selling Thursday for $3.46 a gallon at a BP gas station in St. Charles, according to GasBuddy.com, but at a Marathon station in Geneva, it was selling for $3.63 a gallon.

DeHaan attributed the price gap to wholesale gas prices continuing to drop.

“If gas stations are replenishing every three to five days, boom, all of a sudden you’re replenishing for 15 cents a gallon cheaper than the guy who bought five days ago,” DeHaan said. “That’s obviously going to be reflected in your price.”

Mark Novack, a manager at the Batavia Avenue Mobil, said he is glad to see gas prices go down, although he hasn’t seen an increase in business.

“It doesn’t seem like it has changed driving habits,” Novack said. “I think people notice more when prices go up than when they go down.”

Drivers in Illinois are paying less for gas these days than they were a year ago, when the average price for a regular gallon of gas was at $3.98, DeHaan said.

“Last year, prices bottomed out for the summer on July 7, and they really started to shoot up,” he said.

And DeHaan warned motorists not to get used to declining gas prices, especially if the situation gets worse in Iraq or if a major hurricane strikes the United States.

“If you had a category five hurricane churning out in the Gulf of Mexico today, we wouldn’t be talking about prices going down; we’d be talking about them spiking,” DeHaan said. “That remains a potential threat, absolutely.”

Barring that, he said average gas prices should continue to decrease in the coming weeks.

“We could get down to $3.55 or $3.60 a gallon if there is no hurricane threat or new geopolitical tension to worry about,” DeHaan said.

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