Low Columbia gas prices are a welcome break for drivers

Thursday, November 1, 2012 | 6:50 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — When Kathyrn Kelley purchased her old Toyota in 2000, she could fill it up for $12.

These days, Kelley drives a 1994 Ford Tempo GL and spends around $40 each time she fills the tank.

She said 2005 was "the first time I ever paid $3.50 — prices skyrocketed,” she said. “But now it’s close to $3 a gallon — it’s amazing.”

While lower than average, gas prices in Columbia and across the state continue to fluctuate. After falling to $3.07 on Thursday morning at local stations, the price of a gallon of regular was up to $3.19 by mid-afternoon.

The cost of gas at a Phillips 66 in Wentzville went from $2.99 to $3.19 Thursday, as did prices at a St. Louis-area QuikTrip.

Ron Leone of the Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association attributed the lower prices to supply and demand. 

Leone said the prices are in favor of Missouri consumers, but fluctuations will occur, and it is impossible to predict how long lower prices will last.

"Anything can happen," Leone said. "But in the foreseeable future gas prices seem to continue to decline slowly."

On Oct. 15, Missouri's statewide average retail price for gasoline was about $3.51 per gallon, a 25.1-cent decrease from the previous month, according to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

In 2000, the average price for unleaded regular was $1.51, according the U.S. Energy Information By 2011, the average price had risen to $3.52.

Gregg Laskoski, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy, said seasonal trends are driving the lower prices. The winter blend, which starts Oct. 1 and ends April 30, has fewer additives, which makes it cheaper.

Laskoski said the average price in Missouri has recently been $3.13. A week ago it was $3.23, and a month ago it was $3.60. 

"Local consumers should still expect gas prices continuing to decline, but not as aggressively as we have seen," Laskoski said. 

Laskoski said that Missouri has low gasoline taxes that result in lower gas prices. Laskoski said he expects the decreased prices to last until spring.

In Missouri, Laskoski said the decrease in gas prices has nothing to do with Hurricane Sandy hitting the East Coast. 

For consumers like Kelley, the price decrease is a welcome change.

“It may not be a whole lot, but I’m going to fill up while prices are low,” Kelley said. “You know, all of a sudden you see the prices going down, and that’s making everybody smile.”

Supervising editor is John Schneller.

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