Are Georgia's Gas Prices Finally Sliding back to normal?

By Jeffery Whitfield

Bren Lonon spends nearly $200 each week fueling up the Chevrolet Lumina that she uses for the commute from her McDonough home to work in Atlanta.

The cost of buying gas has proved costly for Lonon, who has had to reconfigure her budget to account for purchasing the unleaded 93-octane fuel for her car.

“I'm just trying to survive,” Lonon said, adding that recently she has seen the cost of fuel fall in recent weeks.

Robert Kinney, a Griffin-based tool distributor, said as he refueled his truck in Jonesboro last week that the fall in gas prices has “been pretty obvious” from summer prices.

Gasoline prices are expected to drop over the next month leading up to the Thanksgiving Day holiday weekend, according to a spokesman for AAA Auto Club South.

“Now the news is good for gas prices for the next few weeks,” said Randy Bly, who added that prices should continue to fall in Georgia barring any unforeseen changes.

Prices could, however, increase for the Thanksgiving holiday as demand for gas rises, he said. Thanksgiving is considered one of the busiest travel times of the year.

Prices at gas stations in Clayton and Henry counties from station to station. One station on U.S. 19/41 near the interstate was selling unleaded for $2.34 on Tuesday. after dropping five cents overnight. Fuel at the Exxon gas station, located on Mt. Zion Boulevard in Clayton County, was $2.59 for regular unleaded gasoline, $2.79 for mid-grade gasoline and $2.89 for high-grade gasoline.

Fuel prices at the Quiktrip gas station located on Willow Lane Road in McDonough were $2.45 for regular unleaded gas, $2.55 for mid-grade gasoline and $2.65 for premium gasoline. At the Bucksaber BP gas station, located on North Henry Boulevard in Stockbridge, regular unleaded gasoline was $2.45, mid grade gas was $2.57 and high grade gas was $2.67.

The prices are a decline from gasoline prices which at times hovered at about $3 this summer. On Friday the average cost of purchasing one gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in Georgia was $2.53, up from the $1.93 it cost consumers one year earlier, according to www.fuelgaugereport, the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report.

Concern of high gas prices led Gov. Sonny Perdue to suspend the state tax on fuel for the month of September. Several gas stations in Georgia also were cited for consumer price gouging.

Even as prices could fall, oil companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp. are reporting some of the largest profits ever. The world's largest publicly traded company said this week that high oil and natural-gas prices helped its third quarter profits leap almost 75 percent, or $9.92 billion, or $1.58 per share, from $5.68 billion, or 88 cents per share, from one year ago.

Bly cited recent low prices for purchasing barrels of oil as an indicator that gas prices likely would continue in a downward trend. Oil is refined into gasoline.

Low consumer demand and oil refineries resuming operation that were damaged by hurricanes Katrina and Rita in the Gulf Coast region also are reasons why prices likely will fall, he said.

Georgia relies on gas refined from the gulf region, Bly added.

He attributed record high fuel prices in Georgia this fall to the impact of the hurricanes, which devastated the gulf coast region, an area home to many refineries.

“That really was a major historical event,” Bly said.

Oil had been purchased from Europe to meet consumer demand while refineries, which typically operate at 90 to 95 percent capacity, were repaired, he said.

“There haven't been any new oil refineries built in 30 years,” Bly said, adding that more might have to be constructed to meet future consumer demand.

Demand for gas was high this past summer, particularly in southeastern states, which are popular destinations for vacations and business meetings, he said.

“Gas and oil markets are market driven ... and there has been a lot of demand,” Bly said.

Refineries also are required to produce more types of cleaner burning gasoline than in past years to meet federal clean air standards in areas such as metropolitan Atlanta, Bly said, which helps drive up prices.

Consumers can conserve the amount of money they spend on purchasing gas by following several simple measures recommended by AAA.

Bly recommended that residents keep their vehicles well maintained by using measures such as regular oil changes, which ensures engines burn fuel efficiently.

He also said residents should keep the air pressure in their vehicle's tires at proper levels, remove heavy items from trunks and combine multiple errands into single trips to guarantee better mileage.

Additionally, residents should practice more effective driving habits to conserve gas by avoiding quick stops and starts at areas such as intersections, Bly said.

Using the proper octane level mandated by a vehicle's manufacturer and not “overbuying,” or purchasing a higher grade of fuel not called for in an engine's design, also will conserve fuel, he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.