Local residents, businesses thankful for falling fuel prices
by Patrick McCreless
Sep 24, 2013 | 3126 views |  0 comments | 41 41 recommendations | email to a friend | print
B.R. Williams Trucking garage in Oxford, Al.  Marshall Higgins fills up a truck with diesel fuel on Tuesday.   Photo by Bill Wilson.
B.R. Williams Trucking garage in Oxford, Al. Marshall Higgins fills up a truck with diesel fuel on Tuesday. Photo by Bill Wilson.
As a resident of rural Wedowee, Claudine Davis keenly feels every fluctuation in local gasoline prices.

"When I walk out my door, if I want to go anywhere I have to drive," Davis said as she pumped gas into her vehicle at the Kangaroo Express service station in Anniston Tuesday afternoon.

Fuel prices have dropped consistently in the state since late August. It's a trend some industry experts say could continue through the fall as supply increases while demand drops now that summer is over. The decrease means some financial relief for many area motorists and businesses.

According to AAA-Alabama, Anniston gasoline prices averaged out at $3.16 per gallon Tuesday, 2 cents cheaper than last week and 9 cents cheaper than last month. At this time last year, gasoline prices averaged at $3.53 a gallon for the area.

Clay Ingram, spokesman for AAA, said the price-drop is expected to continue and could soon bring gas costs below $3 per gallon. The last time gas prices averaged that low in the state was Jan. 22, 2011, Ingram said.

"If the normal trend holds true, prices will continue to drop through Thanksgiving," Ingram said. "We may not see the state average below $3, but we will see many stations below $3 a gallon."

Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for GasBuddy.com, agreed that gasoline prices will continue to drop through the fall months.

"U.S. refineries are processing crude oil at a record high rate for September and it's easier to manufacture gasoline now that summer is over," Kloza said.

Ingram said that in addition to the increase in crude oil processing, which has grown fuel supplies, prices tend to drop this time of year anyway.

"Demand is dropping this time of year now that summer is behind us, fewer people are traveling and school is back," Ingram said. "Normally when demand drops that means prices drop too."

The recent drops in gas costs have been welcome news to Davis, who in addition to living in a rural area, is also retired.

"When you're retired and on Social Security, every bit helps," Davis said. "I'm glad the price is going down some and it needs to go down more."

Renee' Baker, who lives in Etowah County but commutes to work in Anniston every day, is also pleased with the decrease in gas prices.

"I spend $280-a-month on gas going to work," Baker said. "That's not including everything else I want to do ... so I'm very thankful prices are dropping."

Meanwhile, diesel prices have not dropped nearly as much as gasoline prices. Kloza said the diesel market is different from the gasoline market, because it fuels the agriculture, mining and other industries. According to AAA, diesel averaged at $3.82 a gallon Tuesday.

Still, diesel prices have dropped enough to provide some relief for local businesses.

Greg Brown, chairman and CEO of BR Williams Trucking in Oxford, said any drop in fuel costs helps his company.

"Fuel is the largest expense we have ... we spend 18 percent to 20 percent of our budget on fuel," Brown said.

Brown noted that his company buys its diesel in bulk, the price of which has dropped more than that of the diesel sold at service stations. Bulk diesel is about 5 cents cheaper than it was last week, he said.

Phil Webb, owner of Webb Concrete and Building Materials in Oxford, said he also sees a benefit any time diesel costs decrease. Webb Concrete provides services across east-central Alabama.

"Fuel is a substantial cost per month," Webb said. "Any savings is a help to the bottom line."

Phillip Winkles, chief of Piedmont Rescue and EMS, said his six ambulances and two rescue trucks all rely on diesel, consuming between $5,000 and $6,000 worth of fuel on average each month. Winkles said fuel price increases are particularly painful for his organization, becuuse it cannot change its ambulance rates to compensate.

"We don't get an increase in pay when prices go up," Winkles said. "Our ambulance rates are mandated by the federal government ... so when gas prices go up, ambulance costs are stuck."

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.

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