Gas prices do the limbo, get low in Chattanooga

Gas prices do the limbo, get low in Chattanooga

October 24th, 2013 by Shelly Bradbury in Business Around the Region

Gas prices tile

Photo by WRCB-TV Channel 3 /Times Free Press.

A more stable Middle East and slowing demand have pushed crude oil prices down to about $100 per barrel, and that's translating into cheaper gas prices at the pump in Chattanooga.

Gas prices hovered around $3.13 per gallon around the Scenic City Wednesday -- 25 cents lower than this time last year.

"There's a little less volatility in the Middle East, and in the United States inventories are up, so that helps put downward pressure on crude prices," said Rayola Dougher, senior economic adviser at American Petroleum Institute. "We're at the end of the summer demand season when it's a little soft before heading into the deep winter season."

The world consumes about 90 million barrels of crude oil a day, and the United States accounts for about 18.5 million of those barrels. That's about 2 million less than a few years ago, when the country consumed more than 20 million barrels per day, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

And while demand has dropped, domestic oil production is on the rise, Dougher said.

"Last year we brought a million new barrels into the market," she said. "This year the [U.S. Energy Information Administration] expects the oil industry to increase by another million, and next year another million. So in short order, we'll add three million barrels per day. It's a different vision of our energy future than we had just a few years ago."

On Monday, the nation hit its lowest recorded year-to-date national average price at $3.54 per gallon, according to Gas Buddy, an online database to help consumers find cheap gas. The last time it was that low was in June, when the nation tied that average.

But Chattanoogans aren't celebrating at the pump just yet. As Carly Carter filled up her Ford Galaxie 500, she said she misses the days when she was learning to drive, when gas was 93 cents per gallon.

"This sucks," she said. "More than $16 to get 5 gallons? [The savings] don't help at all in this big tank."

Ramping up U.S. oil production could help stabilize the global market while creating jobs and lowering gas prices, Dougher added.

"There's plenty of room for us to ramp up production," she said. "The more we can bring into the world's market, and the more we can partner with Canada to bring in Canadian [fuel] from stable, reliable providers, the better off we are as a nation. If you have a greater share coming from reliable providers you put downward pressure on the price and you help decrease that volatility."

ChattanooganLee Shuff said he's noticed the cheaper gas, but doesn't expect the lull to last too long. He added he'd rather see the country pursue alternative energy before investing in domestic oil production.

"I think we should definitely focus on alternative energy sources," he said. "If it has to be oil, I'd rather it comes from this country instead of importing. But before that I think that I think we should put more resources into finding alternative energy."

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or sbradbury@timesfreepress.com.