Gas prices might rise slowly; lowest prices here at Wal-Mart, RaceTrac

Published 3:11 pm Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Before David Allison became sheriff of Pearl River County, he was a successful Picayune businessman, owning a chain of quick stops and an oil distribution company.

Every morning, says Allison, he would get in his car and drive around Picayune and the area and jot down per gallon gas prices posted by his competitors.

He would then return to his office and adjust his prices at his quick stops if he needed to.

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“If you are in the gas business, you have to know what your competitors are charging, and it is against the law to get together and set prices, so you have to make that ride, and you have to do it daily because the market changes that quickly and that often,” says Allison.

Allison says that despite what the public believes, gas stations don’t make a killing on gas. Usually, they make from five to 10 cents a gallon based on where they set their price and the flow of traffic.

Right now, the lowest gas prices in Pearl River County are found at Interstate 59’s Exit 4, around which are clustered seven gas stations, or outlets, or quick stops, as they are called.

RaceTrac near Wal-Mart is the pace-setter for gasoline prices here. RaceTrac’s posted price for regular on Tuesday at about 11 a.m. was $2.58.9 per gallon.

Wal-Mart, next door, has the same price posted. They seldom differ, and most of the time always match.

Bills, about a quarter-mile down from RaceTrac on Mississippi Highway 43 South, also had posted $2.58.9 per gallon on Tuesday.

Over on the west side of Exit 4 are four other stations. On Tuesday, Chevron posted $2.60.9, Exxon $2.60.9, K&T Fuel $2.59.9 and Shell across Memorial Boulevard $2.60.9.

Exit 6 in North Picayune has one station, Chevron, which posted $2.61.9 and at  Exit 10 at Carriere, Keith’s Superstores had posted $2.61.9, all on Tuesday.

In downtown Carriere on Tuesday, Sunshine’s and Logan’s No. 1 both had $2.61.9 per gallon posted for regular.

As you get into Picayune, the price creeps up slightly. At the corner of 5th Street and Harvey Avenue, Pure posted $2.63.9. Mickey’s No. 1 posted $2.63.9, K&T at the intersection of Richard-Ozona Road and U.S. Highway 11 North posted $2.61.9 and Mickey’s No. 2 just down the highway posted $2.60.9.

Gas customers can remember that only a few months ago gas was in the mid to high $2.40s a gallon, but it has crept up since then. Prices are still a lot better than two years ago when gas approached $3 and $4 a gallon.

Prognosticators don’t expect gas to surge that high in the near future, although anything is possible.

Pearl River County residents still pay a lot lower per gallon for regular than the average price across the county, which Friday was $2.833 per gallon for regular.

The price of a gallon of gas tracks what a barrel of oil sales for on the open market and right now a barrel of oil is fluctuating between $81 and $83 per barrel. Not long ago gasoline dropped to near $2 a gallon and at that time a barrel of oil was selling in the $35 per barrel range.

The price of a gallon of regular gasoline rose about five cents last week and is currently about 35 cents per gallon more than one year ago, according to AAA, which tracks per gallon prices.

Experts say the price of a gallon has crept up because of a weak U.S. dollar and because of China’s demand for more gas because they have more cars on the road.

Right now experts are saying that supplies are plentiful and that bodes well for a slow drop in prices in the near future, which will help decrease supplies and firm up prices.

Baring some crisis in the Middle East, experts say gas prices through Christmas should be stable, and if they make a move, either up or down, it should be gradual.