Gas prices drop with government shutdown

Anthony Gonzalez Staff Reporter

October 16, 2013

Gas prices have plummeted 20 cents compared to a month ago, according to AAA Carolinas.

Gas prices in North Carolina average $3.27, compared to $3.47 a month ago and $3.72 a year ago. Since reaching a summer high of $3.56 on July 21, which was spurred by concerns over the conflict in Egypt, gas prices have been steadily falling.

The last time gas was cheaper in North Carolina was on Dec. 26, 2012, when prices averaged $3.26.

In Elkin, Hess on 1200 N. Bridge St. was selling gas for $3.17, according to GasBuddy.com, a national consumer petroleum gas price website.

The dramatic drop in gas prices is a result of decreased demand due to the end of the summer driving season, refineries’ switch to cheaper winter fuel blends and lower crude oil prices.

According to AAA Carolinas, the federal government shutdown also pressures prices downward, as furloughed workers aren’t commuting to jobs, resulting in even lower gas consumption. The Carolinas and the District of Columbia are both serviced by the Colonial Pipeline, which transports refined petroleum products up the East Coast.

Downward prices may spell relief for motorists, but drivers are not necessarily hitting the road in celebration.

“I filled up my tank, but that’s not because I’m necessarily going anywhere,” said Rich Harton of Boonville who was in Elkin shopping for an antique gift. “Would like to go visit family over Thanksgiving, but with so much going on out there, I might just stay home.”

“The government shutdown does cause motorists to change their driving plans,” said Angela Vogel Daley of AAA Carolinas. “The fallout from a government shutdown is not totally understood at this point. It’s something we’ll have to watch over the next few weeks, but drivers are advised to preplan.”

Daley said she expects that gas prices will continue to drop between now and Thanksgiving, typically the most heavily traveled four-day holiday.

“If we run on average with last year, we’ll see low prices until a small spike during the Christmas season. The gas prices will eventually rise next year around February, as the refineries switch over to prepare for the summer fuel blend,” she said.

The national average for gas is is $3.35, 21 cents lower than a month ago and 46 cents lower than a year ago.

Select stations in Virginia had the cheapest gas in the country at $2.97. South Carolina has the second-cheapest gas at $3.09.

Reach Anthony Gonzalez at 835-1513 or agonzalez@civitasmedia.com.