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World oil glut lowers local gasoline price

Some retailers say gas could get even cheaper

Plummeting crude oil prices and increased competition are bringing an unusual winter drop to gas prices in Oregon and around the Rogue Valley.

Several area stations reported lowering prices about 2 cents per gallon in recent weeks and at least one station manager expects the drop to continue.

Part of that trickle down from the low crude prices hasn't reached us just yet, said John Truax, president of the Truax Corp. in Corvallis, which runs the Towne Pump stations.

Truax said there's usually some lag time involved when lower crude prices bring down wholesale prices, which in turn bring down street prices.

Things will probably trend down over the next month, he says. How much, I don't know.

The price per gallon for regular unleaded at Towne Pump was $1.05. Other regular unleaded prices in the Medford area ranged from $1.03 at the Arco AM/PM off South Pacific Highway to the $1.11 being charged at several stations near the freeway.

The statewide average price was $1.15 in the pre-Thanksgiving holiday survey of gas prices done by Oregon-Idaho AAA. The auto club surveys prices around most holidays.

That is the lowest we have seen since September of 1989, said AAA spokeswoman Anne O'Ryan.

The national average for unleaded regular gasoline hit 97.4 cents per gallon, according to the Energy Information Administration. Adjusted for inflation, officials said that was the lowest price since 1919, when records were first kept.

The price of crude oil hit a 12-year low -- and the lowest price on record when adjusted for inflation -- Monday, closing at $11.22 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Stephen O'Toole of the Oregon Petroleum Marketers Association, a trade group for distributors, says the low prices are a basic supply issue.

There's such a glut on the market, that's why prices are going down, he says.

Dropping gas prices during the winter are unusual, although not unheard of.

Prices from November to February are generally higher because the state requires oxygenated gas to curb emissions in certain areas, including Jackson County and downtown Grants Pass. Industry officials say the oxygenated gas costs more to produce, an expense that is passed on to consumers.

While crude and wholesale prices are part of the lower gas prices, several local station managers say competition is really what's driving the cuts.

It's all competition, says J.R. Waugh, who owns the South Pacific Highway Arco. The gas game is supply and demand in your own town.

Waugh says it's consumers who will decide whether prices stay down.

If you support the lowest prices, they will still go up and down some, he says, but they will stay lower.