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Columbia Missourian

Gas prices dip under $3, still higher than a year ago

By Connie McCollom
September 27, 2011 | 5:42 p.m. CDT
Gas prices fell below $3 at some stations around Columbia on Monday. The stations were busy during rush hour with people filling their tanks for cheaper prices than usual.

COLUMBIA— A $3 increase in the price of crude oil on Tuesday might signal a temporary end to price declines at the gas pump, according to a spokesman for AAA in Missouri.

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Mike Right of AAA in Missouri said the price of crude oil was about $83 per barrel Tuesday afternoon but could change by Tuesday night.

A spot check late Tuesday afternoon found gasoline prices at $2.99 per gallon at Break Time, HyVee and Philips 66, which stood in contrast to the average price of $3.79 per gallon in Columbia this April.

Greg Laskoski, senior petroleum analyst for Gas Buddy, cautioned not to put too much weight on one day’s fluctuations in crude prices.

“If crude goes up $2 a barrel today or a few dollars tomorrow, an increase today could be nullified within a few hours," Laskoski said. "It’s the long term that can tell us more than price spikes in the middle of the week.”

While gasoline prices have dipped recently, they are still higher than the price of $2.45 a year ago, according to AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report.

According to Right, it's not out of the question for gas to return to that price, but crude oil would need "to continue to hover where it is now as the supply of gasoline increases.”

Ron Leone, the executive director of Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, said that low prices should continue, but it's difficult to make accurate predictions.

“Something could happen to impact the supply or distribution, but if everything remains calm, they should stay down," Leone said.

The price at the pump is influenced by three main factors: the cost of crude oil, the cost of refining oil and state and federal taxes, according to Leone.

Leone said the recent price declines have been driven by demand, the sluggish economy and the cost of crude oil. In addition, demand tends to go down in the fall.

“Vacations are done, so demands go down, then prices go down," Leone said.

He said demand is also down because of the bad economy.