Originally created 07/08/06

Gas costs the least in South Carolina



With gas prices approaching the $3 per gallon mark, where do you turn for relief?

You could turn toward South Carolina, where the average price for gas was the lowest in the nation Friday.

According to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report, the average price for regular unleaded was $2.73 in South Carolina, about 15 cents cheaper than Georgia's average price. Augusta's average price was about $2.78.

Although prices are up more than 30 percent from this time last year, South Carolina gas station owners have managed to keep their prices near the bottom nationally. Georgia's average gas price has remained below the national average, which was $2.94 on Friday, but is still among the highest in the Southeast.

Prices at the pump have moved up about 3 percent in the past month. Some experts predict the trend will continue.

"We should see prices go up 5 to 10 cents or more in the next two weeks," said Tom Crosby, spokesman for AAA Carolinas.

Normally, gas prices tend to drop after the Fourth of July holiday weekend, but that's not the case this year.

"Demand is higher this year than last year, and that is an issue," Mr. Crosby said.

But not everyone is expecting prices to continue to climb.

Mark Harper, CEO of United Energy in Aiken, said market signs point to a leveling off of gas prices soon and to lower prices in the next two months.

As evidence, Mr. Harper pointed to the commodities market, which showed the price for crude oil down about $1 Friday and the price for August gasoline futures was down about 2 cents.

"If anything, it looks to me like there's a downward trend," he said.

Randy Bly, a spokesman for AAA Auto Club South, said if consumers would do more to reduce demand, it could have an immediate effect on prices.

"If we all drove the speed limit and no longer drove aggressively, we could bring gas prices down in a day or two," he said.

Reach Steve Crawford at (706) 823-3424 or steve.crawford@augustachronicle.com.

HIGHEST AND LOWEST GAS PRICES



Friday Rank   Year-ago   Location   Reg. Unleaded   Last Year   % Change

1       1 Hawaii     $3.38     $2.58     30.9

2       2 California     $3.23     $2.51     28.9

34     37 Georgia     $2.88     $2.14     34.4

49     42 Tennessee     $2.78     $2.11     31.5

50     46 South Carolina     $2.73     $2.07     31.9

United States     $2.94       $2.22       32.6

Source: AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report



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