AIKEN - While gasoline prices continue in their unprecedented climb, residents of the Augusta-Aiken area should take heart: Prices are better here than almost anywhere else.
Georgia and South Carolina rank below only Oklahoma for lowest-price regular unleaded gasoline, according to price data from AAA Auto Club.
For Georgia, the Augusta-Aiken metropolitan area ranks lowest at an average of $1.63 per gallon of self-serve regular. The national average stands at $1.73.
"That's surprising," said Adam Kays, of Aiken, as he pumped a few gallons into his Chevrolet Blazer on Monday afternoon. "I'd hate to see what it's like in other states. I'll have to fill up before I go anywhere else."
Rising consumption, high crude oil prices, insufficient refining capacity and clean fuel regulations are all factors in the record-setting gasoline prices of recent months. A vow by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to cut production "spells more bad news for the American motorist," said Randy Bly, a spokesman for Tampa-based AAA Auto Club South.
"The news does not look good for the near future," Mr. Bly said. "It looks like the high prices are going to stay with us for the summer."
But Georgia and South Carolina residents are fortunate compared with Californians, who are paying a whopping $2.13 on average for a gallon of self-serve regular.
Richard B. Cobb, the executive director of the Georgia Petroleum Council, said competition between Georgia and South Carolina gasoline vendors contributes to the lower-than-average fuel costs for the area.
"That's a very competitive area because it's on the border," Mr. Cobb said.
Also, Georgia and South Carolina's gasoline taxes and per-gallon surcharges - 18 and 16 cents, respectively - are below the 24-cent national average. And unlike Florida, which relies on barges to bring in refined fuel supplies, Georgia and South Carolina keep fuel transportation costs down by acquiring most gasoline from a pipeline.
Augusta gasoline tends to be cheaper than fuel in the Atlanta metro area, where low-sulfur fuel regulations contribute to the cost per gallon, officials said.
All this is little consolation to Donald Pearman, who spends an average of $175 to fill up his 15-foot motorboat for a day on the lake.
"And that will last one day," he said.
Highest gas prices
Lowest gas prices
South Carolina: $1.636
New Jersey: $1.648
Reach Stephen Gurr at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110, or email@example.com.