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Drivers revel in lower gas prices

POSTED: November 14, 2008 5:00 a.m.
SARA GUEVARA/The Times

Jerry Mauldin, a pastor at Rejoice Baptist Church in Flowery Branch, fills up his car for $1.99 a gallon Monday at a Chevron gas station on Thompson Bridge Road.

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People have started seeing something pop up at gas stations around town that hasn’t been seen in ages — the number 1.

Recently, the price of regular unleaded gasoline has dropped below $2 in some locations, and many are welcoming the lower prices.

Gregg Laskoski, a spokesman for AAA Auto Club South, said while prices will likely continue to drop, he doesn’t expect prices to continue to drop so quickly.

"We still believe that fuel prices can come down further between now and the remainder of the year. But at the same time, we don’t think we’re going to see prices drop as dramatically as we’ve seen through October and thus far in November. Because we’re still seeing prices come down 2 or 3 cents a gallon each day, we think that’s going to slow down significantly to where the change, while it’s still declining, will only be declining by tenths of a cent," Laskoski said.

Laskoski said there are a few reasons gas has become so much cheaper.

On Monday, crude oil traded below $60 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In July, it peaked at $147 a barrel.

"Supply is strong, but demand is weak," Laskoski said. "There’s nothing that we can see that would drive crude oil prices higher."

Laskoski said Americans have used about 5 percent, or 42 million gallons, less than this time last year, and Americans’ more conservative new habits aren’t likely to change in the bad economy.

Another source of savings is that fuel is always cheaper in the winter.

"We believe that once we get into the new year, especially into the first quarter, it’s almost inevitable that gasoline prices will have to rise because that’s the time refineries have to start converting from the winter blend gasoline to summer blend," Laskoski said.

Laskoski said refineries have to shut down some operations and put in more expensive additives for gasoline that is used in the summer.

Jerry Mauldin, who was filling up his car for $1.99 a gallon Monday at the J&S Food Store on Thompson Bridge Road, said he was pleasantly surprised to see the prices.

"This is the first time I’ve bought anything below $2 in quite a while," said Mauldin.

Mauldin, who is a pastor at Rejoice Baptist Church in Flowery Branch, said the low gas prices have allowed him to visit with more people in the church.

"We can get back into traveling," Mauldin said. "When gas prices got around $4 a gallon we had to cut back a little."

Mauldin said when fuel prices peaked over the summer, he cut his visitations to just those in hospitals and nursing homes and stopped driving for leisure.

Mauldin said it cost him between $40 and $50 to fill his tank each time over the summer, but Monday, with regular unleaded at $1.99 a gallon, it cost him just $26.

"That’s quite a difference," Mauldin said.

Aside from church business, Mauldin said he also will enjoy being able to take more leisurely drives.

"Maybe we’ll get a trip into the mountains one of these days," he said.

Others, like Josh Johnson, said while they are glad prices are coming down, they aren’t seeing the extra money.

"I ain’t saving," he said. "It’s still bad."

Johnson said he is saving on gas but is still spending more on other things.

"There’s nothing you can really do about it," Johnson said. "But I’m glad it’s like it is right now. Every little bit helps."



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