Gas pump prices ease, but gripes never far away

Gas pump prices ease, but gripes never far away

September 30th, 2011 by Mike Pare and Ellis Smith in Business Around the Region

BY THE NUMBERS


$3.27 -- Average price of a gallon of regular gas in Chattanooga Thursday

$3.45 -- Average nationwide price of a gallon of regular gas on Thursday

$3.45 -- Average price of a gallon of regular gas in Chattanooga a month ago, or 18 cents per gallon more than the current price.

$2.53 -- Average price of a gallon of regular gas in Chattanooga a year ago, or 75 cents less than the current price

$3.98 -- Average peak price of regular gas reached in price peak.

Source: AAA Fuel Gauge Survey

Chattanooga motorists are paying 18 cents a gallon less for gas than they did a month ago in one hopeful sign from the weakening economy. But fuel prices are still 75 cents above a year ago, when regular gas cost an average of $2.52 a gallon.

"I hope it goes down more," mused East Ridge resident Barbara Sitten.

Her thirsty Ford Explorer burns through gas pretty quickly, she explained, but she can't afford a new fuel-effecient vehicle.

"I'm a senior citizen on a fixed income," Sitten noted wearily as the pump's digital display shot past $50 while filling up her SUV on Thursday.

Global weakness has caused traders to sell off stocks, bonds and commodities like oil at rates not seen since 2010, according to AAA, as Greek debt and disconcerting domestic news weigh on markets.

The rush to sell commodities combined with the end-of-summer driving season has driven prices lower in Chattanooga, said Tom McKinlay, president of Murphy Oil USA.

McKinlay noted during a trip to Chattanooga last week that the cost of fuel is volatile, especially when economic and political winds are uncertain.

"That has a great affect on oil prices," McKinlay said, noting gas costs at the pump have gone down in the past and shot back up.

In fact, gas is the cheapest that St. Elmo resident Brenda Miles can remember in recent months, she said.

"I would love for the gas to get under control," Miles said. "I wasn't even going to get gas today, but it was so cheap."

Chattanooga gas prices are about 18 cents a gallon below the U.S. average, or about $3.27 for a gallon of regular unleaded in Chattanooga compared to $3.45 nationally.

But no matter how cheap gas gets, it will never be enough for some people, said Lindsay Lacy, of Rossville.

"It feels like it's gone down 30 cents," she said. "But everybody complains about gas prices, no matter how low it gets."