Gas prices stable despite conflict with Iraq

By Justin Reedy

When Griffin resident Jason Sutherland pulled up to a gas station in Jonesboro on Monday, he was happy to see that the price of gas has dropped over the last several days despite the war with Iraq.

"I'm surprised the prices are so low," said Sutherland, who drives so much for his job that he often pumps gas on a daily basis. "It's gone down quite a bit since last week. I did expect it to go up because we're over there (in the Persian Gulf) where most of the oil comes from."

The metro Atlanta and national average prices for unleaded gasoline have dropped slightly, contrary to some concerns that the beginning of the war with Iraq would drive those prices up.

The average cost for a gallon of regular grade unleaded gas in metro Atlanta Monday was $1.57, down almost one cent from the previous day, according to AAA's daily fuel gauge report. The national average for gas has also dropped slightly, from about $1.71 per gallon to $1.705.

Some gas stations around the Southern Crescent had prices around the metro area average, with prices for regular unleaded in Henry and Clayton counties about $1.50 to $1.60 per gallon, while other stations were even lower.

At the QuikTrip store at Ga. Highway 54 and Tara Boulevard in Jonesboro, for instance, regular unleaded gas cost only $1.47 per gallon. But that didn't surprise Hampton resident Larry Justice, who stopped there for gas on Monday.

"It's good that it's going down," said Justice. "I figured it would until it hit about $1.50 per gallon."

Gas prices have started to stabilize in the United States because there isn't a shortage of crude oil or natural gas, a AAA spokeswoman says, though that could change depending on the outcome of the war with Iraq.

"One thing consumers need to be aware of is that oil and natural gas suppliers are working hard to show they have plenty of supply," explained Pam Fox, spokeswoman for AAA Auto Club South in Atlanta. "Right now, we're not seeing any interruption in the flow of crude oil, so there's plenty of supply. We don't foresee any massive increases unless that flow is interrupted."

Crude oil prices have remained steady around $36 per barrel, Fox said, so retail gas prices won't drop much more from current levels unless crude oil costs decrease. And with cold weather continuing in some parts of the country through the beginning of spring, that has helped keep demand high for petroleum products.

Also, as warmer weather arrives, Fox said, gas producers will start to make cleaner-burning versions of automobile fuel for the summer months, and that added cost could cancel out decreases in crude oil prices.

"We're seeing retail gas prices level out a bit, but we don't expect to see them drop much (because of that conversion)," Fox said.