By David A. Farrell, Item Staff Writer
The Picayune Item
Gas prices in Picayune have jumped 19 percent since the price of a gallon of regular gasoline dropped below $3, to $2.989, at RaceTrac on Dec. 17.
As of Friday, that’s a 59 cent per gallon increase over a 67-day period in Pearl River County and Picayune alone. In some areas around the country, especially in California and New York state, it was worse.
On Dec. 17 at RaceTrac, the price for one gallon of regular gasoline was $2.989 and on Friday it was $3.579. However, the lowest price posted in the county on Friday was at Murphy’s Oil Co. at the Wal-Mart pumps where a gallon of regular cost $3.559.
Some drivers are exasperated by the roller coaster ride.
One disgruntled driver filling up at RaceTrac on Friday told a Picayune Item reporter, “There is no way to prepare a family budget when prices fluctuate like this. It’s a useless effort.”
Experts who keep tabs on the price of a gallon of gas, which tracks the price of a barrel of oil on international markets, say they expect gasoline prices to continue to rise.
Experts are not sure.
Some say that the switch to the production of summer season blends by refineries reduces the production totals of regular, thus causing short supplies; however, some experts are saying this time that increased U.S. supplies are being shipped to overseas markets to get the premium price there, thus shorting the U.S. market and forcing prices up.
A report by McClatchy reporters claimed Wall Street brokers are keeping the price artificially high through speculation, while an exasperated ABC reporter said it was a “mystery.”
Here in Picayune, customers watched the price skyrocket, after seeing it drop below $3 per gallon in mid-December and after enduring for two long years prices over the $3 per gallon mark. At one point, prices during that two-year period peaked here at $3.799 a gallon at RaceTrac.
Drivers had hoped that the dip in mid-December to below $3 a gallon would hold but were disappointed to see gas prices leap above $3 again shortly after Christmas and continue into the $3.50 range.
Some experts say if prices keep rising, it might tip the U.S. economy over the edge and into another recession, because U.S. shoppers will have less money with which to shop while the price of gasoline is sucking their wallets dry. Many commute to work and that places additional strain on family budgets.
On Friday, the price at RaceTrac at Exit 4 on Interstate 59 was $3.579, but the lowest price in the county was nearby at Murphy Oil Co. pumps at Wal-Mart which had posted $3.559. Wal-Mart and RaceTrac usually post identical prices. Bill’s Quick Stop at Mississippi Highway 43 and East Canal was at $3.599, and Exxon, Shell and Chevron, also at Exit 4, were at $3.609 each.
There are six gas stations at Exit 4, making it ground zero for the lowest prices in Pearl River County.
In Poplarville, where gas prices for some reason are always higher then nearby markets, at Kangaroo at the intersection of Mississippi Highways 26 and 53 the price was posted at $3.689 on Thursday. Mayor Billy Spiers recently complained about Poplarville’s price at the pump being higher than surrounding communities, and actually complained to state authorities, but officials in Jackson said all that Poplarville consumers could do would be to boycott the businesses charging the highest area rates per gallon.
However, being in an isolated market makes it more expensive to drive to the nearest town with lower prices than just to pay the higher price at home.
Poplarville customers were hurt when Hall’s recently shut down, which charged the lowest price in Poplarville for a gallon.
While local gas prices here are hurting budgets, the Mississippi Gulf Coast continues to pay less per gallon than the rest of the nation. The average price per gallon in the U.S. on Presidents’ Day, Feb. 18, was $3.739 per gallon, said a AAA news release.
In a third of the states, the price per gallon hovered near $4.
In New York state, the average price is $3.999 a gallon. New York imposes 49 cents in taxes per gallon of gas sold, the highest tax in the nation on fuel sold at the pump.
In Los Angeles and Southern California, gas prices took the largest jump ever in one month, 49 cents. In San Diego, the price of a gallon was $4.285, on Friday, the LA Times reported.