Gas prices drop locally, nationwide

Gas prices are dropping – for now.

Area gas prices have fallen below the national average, but they still soar nearly $1 per gallon higher than in September of last year.

In the past two months, gas prices across the nation and Catawba County have decreased about 20 cents. On Tuesday, gas stations around Newton, Conover and Claremont sold fuel for about $3.40 per gallon. In Maiden, the prices were higher in places like the Valero gas station on U.S. 321 Business, which sold gas for $3.48 per gallon.

The national average for fuel hovers around $3.51 per gallon.

Though averages are dropping throughout the U.S., gas prices are still about 30 percent higher than last year after the third week in September. In September 2010, the national average for fuel was about $2.69 per gallon, about 82 cents lower than the current average, according to the U.S. Energy Information Association.

And fuel is much more expensive than 10 years ago, when the average after Sept. 24, 2001, was about $1.49 per gallon. The national average 20 years ago in September was about $1.09 per gallon.

Verlin Drum, of Newton, said he can remember when gas was 15 cents per gallon in the 1940s.

“It don’t cost any more to process it now than it did 60 years ago,” Drum said. “Now, it just takes every penny that you make.”
Drum said he’s happy to see prices go down, but says they will surely go right back up.

“It’s up and down like a yo-yo,” Drum said, adding that he gets fuel often to gas his four tractors, pickup truck, car and three lawnmowers. “They will come up with something else to make it go back up.”

The economy plays a key role in determining the price of fuel, and economist projections often drive prices up and down. There is no certainty how long the price drops will last, but some economists have said they will continue until December.

Debbie Kafer, of Maiden, bought gas for $3.38 per gallon at the Hess store in Newton on Tuesday. She said until the economy gets better, prices will remain high, despite this drop.

“The market is dropping and that’s what is playing a role in the prices,” Kafer said. “You can see the differences from town to town.”

While Kafer paid $3.38 per gallon in Newton, the price for fuel was 10 cents more six miles down U.S. 321 Business in Maiden at the Valero.

“I was surprised when I saw the prices go down, but I think they will go back up,” Kafer said. “They know that we are going to buy it no matter what.”

Though prices in Catawba County and most parts of North Carolina are below the national average price for fuel, some states pay far less. In South Carolina and Georgia, some gas stations have started selling fuel for less than $3 per gallon.

Shane Flores, of Greenville, S.C., paid $2.99 per gallon for gas last week just outside of his hometown in South Carolina. On Tuesday, he was in Newton installing a new price sign at the Kangaroo/Marathon gas station at the intersection of N.C. 10 and U.S. 321 Business.

The sign showed a temporary fuel price of $1.23 per gallon, a figure that convenience store managers said is not the real price. Flores said the price is just a filler until the sign is installed.

“Gas prices are a lot more expensive up here,” he said of North Carolina’s fuel figures.

Dropping costs are a good thing, even for the casual driver. Glenda Verbos, of Maiden, tries to get all her driving for her church and personal errands done on Tuesday so she’s not using so much fuel. But despite driving minimally, she said the high prices still hit her hard in the wallet.

“It seems like short trips seem to kill me,” Verbos said. “I hope they stay down because I’m sick of the prices.”