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The national average for unleaded gasoline is $3.55 to $3.70 per gallon with most stations in Boone holding at $3.63 to $3.65 per gallon.

GRAPHIC ILLUSTRATION by ROB MOORE



Originally published: 2014-06-10 20:02:41
Last modified: 2014-06-10 20:03:25

Price at the pump

by Anna Oakes

AAA predicted last week that gas prices will remain at current levels -- a range of $3.55 to $3.70 per gallon across the nation -- throughout the summer.

"One week into the summer driving season, the national average price for regular unleaded gasoline is $3.67 per gallon," AAA said in a release dated June 2. "This is one cent less than last month, but it is a penny more than last week and a nickel more than on the same date last year."

Continuing geopolitical concerns, major refinery disruptions or a severe hurricane season could send the national average higher than anticipated, while the absence of such catalysts could allow prices to fall below this range, AAA added.

Consumers in Hawaii, California and Alaska were paying the most at the pump as of early last week, with prices at more than $4 per gallon. The greatest price increases in recent days were seen in Ohio (+10 cents), Indiana (+8 cents) and Michigan (+8 cents).

"Over the last several years, Midwestern gas prices have regularly been the most volatile in the country as refinery issues, supply bottlenecks and logistical issues have caused sometimes dramatic fluctuations," AAA explained.

Although analysts continue to closely examine a situation in Russia and Ukraine that remains unresolved, they still believe the likelihood of a disruption in supply remains low, according to AAA.

Heading into Memorial Day weekend, Boone reported the highest average gas prices in the state, with gas prices at $3.712 compared with a statewide average of of $3.624, AAA Carolinas reported.

Local prices have ticked down a few cents since then, however, and are now closer to the state average. Most stations in Boone ranged from $3.63 to $3.65 per gallon on Thursday, according to GasBuddy.com, while the state average was $3.601 on that day.

The higher prices in Boone drew the ire of consumers accusing area stations of jacking up the costs, but distributors say that locals have no control over the prices at the pump.

Distributors and gas stations cannot negotiate the price at the terminal, where they get the gas, according to B and B Transport employee Dale Hunsucker.

"Whatever the distribution company had to pay for the gas, plus their little markup and our freight charges, you don't negotiate. There's no negotiation," Hunsucker said.

Alvin Carpenter of Tri-County Oil in Spruce Pine said, "Based on my own personal research and interest, I believe that the price seems to be set by the speculator. At whatever the speculated price of the market at the time seems to be the cost at the terminal."

Also affecting prices from spring to summer is the transition period to gas with lower vapor pressure, or RVP. As temperatures rise, gas companies are required by the Environmental Protection Agency to use gasoline that has a lower RVP. The lower the RVP, the more expensive the gas is to produce.

During the transition period, prices can fluctuate and spike from station to station depending on which type of gas they have, local industry representatives said.

Caroline Harris of the Avery Journal-Times contributed reporting to this story.