The Woodward News

January 3, 2013

Fuel prices hit record high in 2012

Chris Cooper
Woodward News

Woodward, Okla. — According to a AAA survey, 2012 was the most expensive year on record for gas prices.

AAA said the average price for regular unleaded gasoline in the US for 2012 was $3.60 per gallon, topping 2011's record setting $3.51 per gallon.

Chuck Mai, AAA spokesman, said several factors caused the high prices.

"Firstly we had quite a few weather situations that arose, that was significant. Both hurricanes from the gulf, as well as Hurricane Sandy through a wrench in the works,'" Mai said. "There were also a lot of refinery problems, problems with refineries requiring unexpected repairs and at unusual times of the year."

Mai said that tension in the Middle East between Hamas and Israel could have contributed to higher gasoline prices as well

"Even though Israel isn't a large oil producer, there was a heightened tension in the area that hostilities between Hamas and Israel could spill over into other oil producing countries," Mai said. "This could have resulted in a decrease in oil coming from the Middle East."

Despite 2012 being the most expensive year in history for fuel prices, Oklahoma managed to somewhat evade the problem, being the state with the 5th lowest average price in the nation at $3.41 per gallon.

"There's really a number of reasons contributing to Oklahoma's low fuel prices really," Mai said. "Firstly we're close to the source since we produce oil, and we're close to the gulf, where even more oil is produced, so its easy to get fuel here."

Mai also said that having a wide variety of fuel vendors might be helping contribute to lower fuel prices in the state.

"We have a high level of competition when it comes to fuel sales, particularly in the Tulsa and Oklahoma City area, with the proliferation of 7/11's and Quick Trips," Mai said.  "We also have Love's based in Oklahoma, and Conoco- Phillips also has a strong presence here in the state, so we have a number of retail outlets selling fuel. I've heard it said that Oklahoma has more gas stations per capita than anywhere else in the county.

Mai also mentioned that Oklahoma's gas tax, 17 cents per gallon, is one of the lowest in the country.

While AAA predicts gasoline prices to remain high, it does not expect prices to be as high as in 2012.

"Nationwide we're experiencing new technology coming into play that goes towards acquiring hard to get domestic oil," Mai said. "There's a number of new innovative technologies, such as hydraulic fracturing, that oil companies can use to recover more and more of the oil we have in the country.

"Another reason we're optimistic about fuel prices is we expect the demand for fuel to continue to be low. Across the country we've learned to conserve fuel and make every gallon count in ways we never have before. We're doing things such as maintaining vehicles better so they run more efficiently and buying more fuel efficient vehicles."

To help motorists save money in these expensive times, Mai recommended that small efforts, over time, go a long way.

"Doing the little things like combining errands, mapping out the shortest route to your destination, and vacationing closer to home can all help make considerable contributions to fuel conservation over time," he said.