Va. gas prices nearing record high

gas pump pic

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – As gas prices in the Commonwealth continue to climb, officials said Tuesday fuel costs are nearing a record high in the state.

AAA Mid-Atlantic said gas prices are just 10 cents from the record high of $4.01 on July 17, 2008.

Officials said they think that record will be broken sometime within the next 10-15 days. [BONUS: Click here to find the cheapest gas prices in Central Virginia]

“It is almost certain that gas prices in Virginia will break the all-time record high by the traditional ‘tax day’ of April 15,” said Windy VanCuren, Public Affairs Specialist at AAA Mid-Atlantic in a news release.

Here’s a chart from AAA on national gas prices, and how prices stack up in cities across the state.

Gas Prices as of April 3, 2012, for a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline:

Price Today Price Last Month Price Last Year

Record High Price

National

$3.92

$3.76

$3.66

$4.11 (7/17/08)

Virginia

$3.91

$3.65

$3.58

$4.01 (7/17/08)

Charlottesville

$3.81

$3.59

$3.56

$4.05 (7/5/08)

Norfolk

$3.90

$3.59

$3.54

$3.99 (7/16/08)

Richmond

$3.92

$3.58

$3.54

$4.01 (7/16/08)

Roanoke

$3.86

$3.67

$3.52

$4.14 (9/15/08)

And,  officials also released their top list of myths about gas high prices.

Here’s the complete list from a news release from AAA Mid Atlantic:

Gas prices will hit $5 a gallon this summer False. No way. No how. Unless Israel and the United States strike Iran’s nuclear facilities, and then that’s the doomsday scenario. Although pump prices have already spiked above four dollars in some retail markets in California, along the west coast and the east coast, and in Washington, D.C., most American consumers won’t pay nearly that much for gas this spring and summer. AAA and Oil Price Information Service (OPIS) gas guru, Tom Kloza, continue to believe U.S. gasoline gas prices will average $4.05-$4.25 per gallon this spring before they fall like the leaves of autumn – between 75 cents and a dollar per gallon – between the Fourth of July and Labor Day.

Gas station owners and operators are making a killing at the gas pump. False. Whenever gas prices soar, some consumers vent their anger at the neighborhood filling station operator; however, this is misplaced rage. Average Joe Gas Station Owner makes more money selling snacks, sandwiches, and soda pop than he does selling a gallon of gas. As one service station manager recently told a reporter, “Where we used to make 14 or 15 cents, some of us are down to 4 or 5 cents a gallon right now.” Well, is that true? The markup on motor fuel sales averaged 18.5 cents per gallon in 2011. However, profit margins in 2011 typically were 3 cents to 5 cents per gallon (average breakeven on fuel sales is around 14 cents), explains the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS). “Retailer profit margins over the past five years have averaged 15.4 cents per gallon” for the industry, which sells the bulk of gas in the USA.

Cash versus Credit? You really don’t save that much if you pay cash for your gas. False. You don’t have to be filthy rich to realize that some stations are offering a five to ten cent per gallon discount if you use cash. To outwit their competitors and to win more customers, more gas stations are now displaying two price signs in plain sight: one for cash purchases and another for credit card/debit card transactions. But do you really save? Well, they are offering cash discounts at the pump to avoid passing on expensive credit card/debit card “swipe fees” to their customers. Last year, debit/credit cards fees averaged 4.7 cents per gallon at gas stations and convenience store. It gives a new meaning to “cash and carry.”

Refinery closures on the East Coast will have little impact on what we pay for gas and diesel fuel this spring. False. It boils down to cause, effect and the wellhead. The retail price of gasoline is more expensive on the East Coast this year and one big reason for that is the shutdown of refineries in the region. It’s “Lord have mercy on us” if the Sunoco refinery in South Philadelphia closes in July. It’s the “big enchilada,” producing a fourth – 24 percent – of the refining capacity on the East Coast. Established in the 1860’s, it’s the “oldest continuously operating refinery in the world,” yet it’s operated by “the world’s least profitable owner of refineries,” reports Bloomberg. A total of 18 refineries have been shuttered in the U. S., the Caribbean, and Europe during the past three years, taking more than two million barrels of oil out of production per day. We’ve lost two refineries that contribute about 360,000 b/d to middle Atlantic supply, and a once huge refinery in the Caribbean closed forever this month.

A Whole Lot of Speculating Is going on/Speculators are driving up gas prices. True. Gasoline prices have risen more than 50 cents a gallon since the beginning of the year. Once again, many people are pointing the finger of blame at Wall Street investors and “noncommercial traders” at the NYMEX known as “speculators,” who continue to have an outsize impact on prices in the oil and gas markets. Back in July 2008, crude oil futures soared to a record high of $147 a barrel. Prices doubled from a low of $69 a barrel some three months earlier. Pump prices followed suit, and skyrocketed to all-time record highs of $4.11 a gallon nationally in July. A subsequent 60 Minutes investigation on CBS in 2009 revealed, “Approximately 60 to 70 percent of the oil contracts in the futures markets are now held by speculative entities.”

The USA imports more oil than its exports. False. On an annual basis, the country exported more crude products during 2011 than it imported. That’s the first time it’s happened in six decades, since 1949, to be exact. That’s according to the February “Petroleum Supply Monthly” from the Energy Information Administration (EIA). The agency explains: “The increase in foreign purchases of distillate fuel contributed the most to the United States becoming a net exporter of petroleum products.” U.S. gasoline and diesel exports to Brazil jumped 29.27% last year, the EIA reports, and they are expected to double this year, says OPIS. It’s further proof of the role reversal of the U.S. as a net exporter for petroleum products.

OPEC has the United States over a barrel, of oil, that is. False. While Saudi Arabia is the second largest supplier of crude oil to the United States, nearly half -49 percent – of U.S. crude oil and petroleum products imports came from the Western Hemisphere, primarily Canada (number one), Mexico (number three), Venezuela (number four), rounding out fifth place was Nigeria, and then Columbia. That was the case in 2010 and in September of 2011, according to the EIA. Even so, only about “18% of our imports of crude oil and petroleum products come from the Persian Gulf countries of Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates,” the agency explains.

Most consumers purchase name-brand gasoline. False. Instead of going green, more motorists are going generic, for gas, that is. Gas-brand loyalty is a thing of the past, and we are shopping for gas with our steering wheel, due to the high cost of fuel, and opting for unbranded (generic) gas. As a result, a market inversion is taking place, with more consumers flocking to no-name, no-tell gas kiosks. Here’s why. “Branded product often carries a premium to unbranded product,” says OPIS, “since it can be sold under a branded ‘flag.’” Even so, branded gasoline can be sold as unbranded product, but the reverse is not true. Eighty percent of the gasoline purchased in this country in 2010 was sold by the convenience store industry, not by retail filling stations. That year convenience stores rung up $385 billion in motor fuel sales on their cash registers. In fact, during 2010, “the average convenience store posted $3.98 million in motor fuels sales and sold 123,449 gallons per month,” according to the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS). Don’t get branded or burned at the pump, and chances are, your car can’t tell the difference.

Old habits die hard, but I can save gas money if I change the way I drive. True. One of the easiest and most effective ways to conserve fuel is to change driving styles. Instead of making quick starts and sudden stops, go easy on the gas and brake pedals. If there is a red light ahead, ease off the gas and coast up to it rather than waiting until the last second to brake. Once the light turns green, gently accelerate rather than making a quick start. The U.S. Department of Energy reports aggressive driving can lower a car’s fuel economy by up to 33 percent.



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