Gas prices are cheaper than they have been in about five years now that motorists are being urged to travel only when necessary.
The average price of a gallon of gas in Maine fell below $2 a gallon last week, according to the Gas Buddy website, which monitors prices nationwide. The state’s average price, about $1.93 per gallon of unleaded, regular gas, is 48 cents cheaper than the average price in February and 65 cents cheaper than last year’s average price.
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Gas prices are plunging nationwide, and there are even gas stations selling gas for less than $1 a gallon. In Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 10 stations reported prices as low as 97 cents a gallon on Monday, and four stations in Wautoma, Wisconsin, listed prices of 95 cents per gallon.
The plunging prices are the result of depressed demand with more people working at home and generally staying out of public, without a corresponding cut in supply from the world’s top oil producers, the Washington Post reported.
In Maine, the lowest price reported Monday was $1.20 per gallon in Union. Wayne Kirkpatrick, owner of one of the stores selling gas at that price, Four Corner Variety, said that a recent plunge in the price of a barrel of crude oil has allowed him to cut his price and still make money.
“I am sure the coronavirus has something to do with it,” Kirkpatrick said Monday.
Lots of customers at Friends and Family Market, a convenience store and Shell gas station off Route 1A in Ellsworth, have said they would love to travel but don’t want to spread the virus, said Matt Welch, the store’s manager.
“The demand has gone way down now because nobody is going anywhere,” Welch said. “Yesterday everybody around here was pretty much at $1.79 a gallon.”
Besides the two stores in Union, gas stations in Washington, New Sharon, Damariscotta, Swanville, Albion, Gouldsboro, Corinth, and Troy were among those with the 15 lowest gas prices in the state. The 15 highest prices reported in Maine on Monday ranged from $2.19 per gallon in Livermore Falls, Durham, Portland, Windham and Standish, to the absolute highest, $3.21 per gallon on the island of Vinalhaven, according to Gas Buddy.
While prices fall, Maine drivers shouldn’t expect to see prices drop to $1 per gallon, said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at Gas Buddy. The stations with those low prices are more likely to be in the Great Lakes region and in low-tax states in the southern U.S.
“These areas generally see some of the lowest prices due to either competition or location/low tax,” De Haan said.
Most convenience stores with gas stations attached are likely at least surviving the plunge in gas prices, if not flourishing, because foodstuff sales are booming. Distributors have told Welch to expect manufacturers of processed foods to make up for shortfalls late this summer by temporarily eliminating production of exotic brands or flavors as they concentrate on producing best-sellers. As an example: Perhaps Coca-Cola might downgrade production of Cherry Coke in order to offset the increased demand in Coke, Welch said.
“The effect will be to see less items on the shelves,” Welch said. “It’s hard to produce every variety when every warehouse in the country is calling the manufacturer saying they need so many cases of one item at once because the demand is so great.”