$2 gas a relief to local drivers

EVERETT — A few gas stations in Snohomish County are selling regular gas for less than $2 per gallon, bringing relief for drivers who struggled with record high fuel prices of more than $4 a gallon this summer.

The national average price of regular gasoline on Friday came down to $1.99 per gallon, according to the AAA auto club. That’s down from $2.86 a month ago and $3.09 a year ago. The average price in Washington state remains at $2.14 per gallon, but some businesses are setting regular gas prices below $2 to entice customers.

Kylie Kinger on Friday bought gas at a Union 76 gas station at Pacific and Rucker avenues in Everett, where regular gas was $1.98 per gallon. The price helps, Kinger said, because her Honda Prelude gets about 15 miles per gallon.

"I like it," Kinger, of Everett, said. "It’s awesome. It’s much, much better."

The gas station began selling regular gas below $2 earlier this week, manager Abdul Rashid said.

"People are buying more stuff like cigarettes and drinks" with gas prices falling, Rashid said.

Business seems to be picking up after slow summer months, Rashid said. In July, regular gas went up to $4.49 per gallon at the station.

Gas prices tend to fall after Labor Day, as fewer people drive, said Dave Overstreet, public affairs director for AAA Washington. Price declines are much steeper this year than usual.

"A lot of that has to do with what’s happening with the economy," Overstreet said.

Gas prices can fluctuate with the price of crude oil. Crude oil climbed close to $150 per barrel in July, as a strong global economy and the volatile political situation in the Middle East increased demand and threatened supplies.

Crude oil on Friday was trading below $50 per barrel, a sign that major economies worldwide have fallen into a recession.

While lower gas prices are good for commuters, they are not helping the local economy much. For example, Hogland Transfer Co., an Everett-based trucking company, has seen its business fall about 30 percent compared with a year ago as a sluggish economy slows the flow of goods, said Steve Holtgeerts, the company’s president. The company has laid off about 10 employes and reduced hours for several others this fall, he said.

This Thanksgiving is expected to see a decline in the number of holiday travelers, according to AAA. The agency estimates about 41 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the holiday weekend. That’s a decrease of 600,000 travelers from a year ago.

Gas prices are likely to rebound sometime next year, Overstreet said.

"People have to keep in mind that when the economy starts turning around, undoubtedly gas prices will start going up," he said.

Wally Stover on Friday dropped by the Union 76 station along Rucker Avenue after seeing the price for diesel, $2.79 per gallon. He filled up his Dodge diesel truck.

It’s good that fuel prices continue to drop, Stover, of Everett, said. But they are still higher than they should be.

"You have to keep in mind that I’m 67," he said. "Fuel, when I was a kid, was about 25 cents a gallon or less."

Reporter Yoshiaki Nohara: 425-339-3029 or ynohara@heraldnet.com.

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