Gas prices falling
Published 7:36 pm Monday, June 14, 2004
It may not be enough to dance a jig at the pump, but gas prices are falling around the Atmore area, and federal forecasts say the trend should continue for a short while.
Gas prices fell last week from a high of $1.99 to an around town average of $1.92 by press time, a seven-cent decrease.
Since December 2001, gas prices have surged from about $1.05 per gallon to a peak in early May of $2.06, according to the federal Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration.
The U.S. average retail price for regular gasoline decreased by 1.3 cents per gallon as of May 31 to reach $2.05 per gallon, 57.8 cents higher than this time last year.
Government specialists say there may not be much relief in sight for consumers.
"Historically, retail gasoline prices have increased seasonally during spring, often peaking around Memorial Day. This year, prices have climbed steadily since the start of the year. From about $1.48 per gallon on December 29, 2003, the average retail price of regular gasoline in the United States increased 18 out of the next 21 weeks up to May 24, 2004, totaling a net increase of 58.6 cents per gallon, before dropping by 1.3 cents per gallon on May 31, 2004.
Consumers should not expect retail prices to fall back to prices seen before the recent increases. While prices could drop below $2 per gallon over the next couple of weeks, and may continue to fall thereafter, present market conditions do not provide a reason to expect prices to return to their level at the start of this year anytime soon," according to the EIA's This Week in Petroleum.
The DOE also reported, that despite the higher prices at the pumps, the demand for gas has continued to climb.
Higher prices and higher demand can also lead to an increased rate of gas drive-offs, where drivers fill the tank and leave without paying. But in Atmore, gas drive-offs have not become an increasing problem, said Atmore Police Chief Jason Dean.
"You'd think we would see more with the higher prices, but that doesn't seem to be the case," Dean said. "We usually have about two drive-offs per week, but it seems to keep to that average."
In an attempt to keep drive-offs from hurting business, a number of gas stations around Atmore are forcing drivers to pay before they pump, especially in the evening hours when drive-offs are more likely to occur.
Dean said hefty fines of $500 and up plus court costs and driver's license suspension help keep drive-offs in check.
Reporting from the Demopolis Times contributed to this report.