published Saturday, June 23rd, 2012

Chattanooga area fuel price falls below $3 a gallon

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    James Benson fills up his vehicle for under $3 per gallon at the Midnight Oil station at the intersection of Wilcox and Tunnel boulevards Friday.
    Photo by Dan Henry.
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By the numbers

• $2.89 - Price of regular gas at Texaco station on Wilcox Boulevard

• $3.06 - Average price of regular gas in Chattanooga Friday

• $3.45 - Average price of regular gas nationwide Friday

• $3.35 - Average price of regular gas in Chattanooga a month ago

• $3.38 - Average price of regular gas in Chattanooga a year ago

Source: AAA fuel gauge report, GasBuddy.com

In the 14 years Derrik Sims has been in the lawn care business, he's learned he's better off not looking at that final number on the gas tank.

With a truck, riding lawn mower, several string trimmers, chainsaws, blowers and hedge trimmers, Fresh Start Lawn Care burns through plenty of gas each week. As gas prices seemed to hurdle toward more than $4 earlier this year, he was expecting that gas to burn a hole in his bottom line.

So he was pleasantly surprised Friday afternoon when he was told he'd only be paying $2.89 a gallon at the Texaco on the corner of Wilcox and Tunnel boulevards.

"I didn't think I'd ever see gas under $3 again," he said. "I think that's real good."

Gas prices fell below $3 a gallon at several area service stations Friday, the cheapest prices for fuel in a couple of years and a welcome respite for motorists who were warned this spring that gas might be more than $4 a gallon by now.

Gas prices are down by more than 10 percent from a year ago, according to the AAA fuel gauge report. That's adding extra spending money for consumers who could use the money.

Tanya Jones, a Hixson resident who works downtown, said she usually buys a tank and a half of gas a week so the drop in fuel prices should save her $10 to $20 a month compared with what she spent on gas a year ago.

"Three dollars a gallon is a whole lot better than it was, but I think the prices are still ridiculous," she said as she filled up her pickup at the Amnicola Highway RaceTrac, which cut its gas price to $2.99 a gallon on Friday. "They scared us to death thinking it would be $4 or more a gallon this summer so it's better than it could be."

Prices began rising when Iran, a top oil-producing country, threatened to cut off oil trading in the face of political sanctions. Fears of a shortage caused some analysts to worry prices could rise beyond $5 a gallon.

Jimmy Clift, a Soddy Daisy resident, said he fills his Chevy Silverado every couple of months.

"The problem with gas prices right now are the speculators who pushed up the prices this spring and told everyone that gas would be $5 a gallon by now," he said. "It's good that they aren't that high, but it does make you wonder."

But Iran backed down from its threats. That, coupled with a decline in the global, particularly European, economy sent gas prices on a downward trend experts don't expect to end any time soon.

"It looks like they're going to be trending downward for quite some time," said Jessica Brady, a regional spokeswoman for AAA. "It's lacking demand across the board, from the U.S. to China and of course in Europe, at a time when we have ample supply."

Prices aren't expected to rise, barring a natural disaster, conflict in the Middle East or a significant boost in consumer confidence.

Oil hit a nearly 9-month low Thursday at $78.20 a barrel. That's pushed down gas prices. The national average dipped to $3.45 for a gallon of regular gasoline Friday, 17 cents below a year ago according to AAA.

about Dave Flessner...

Dave Flessner is the business editor for the Times Free Press. A journalist for 35 years, Dave has been business editor and projects editor for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, city editor for The Chattanooga Times, business and county reporter for the Chattanooga Times, correspondent for the Lansing State Journal and Ingham County News in Michigan, staff writer for the Hastings Daily Tribune in Nebraska, and news director for WCBN-FM in Michigan. Dave, a native ...

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