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Gas prices continue to fall

Photo by J. Reed.

Photo by J. Reed.

By Judy Reed


After a year that saw the average price of gas stay between $3 and $4 per gallon, drivers are finally getting some much needed relief at the pump. Last week the Post reported gas had dropped to $1.94 in Cedar Springs, from $2.13 the week before. As of Tuesday, December 30, gas in Cedar Springs is now $1.79 per gallon. That’s the lowest it’s been since early 2009.

According to GasBuddy.com, the average price of gas, as of Tuesday, in Grand Rapids is $1.86; the state average is $2.00; and the national average is $2.26.

“The dramatic decline at the pump continues to reap significant savings for the motoring public—over $525 million less spent every day versus this past summer, or $375 million less than the same time last year,” said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst with GasBuddy. “The slump in crude oil has wavered slightly and we’re in the fourth quarter of the game. However, there is still a chance that crude prices resume their slump again, and carry the pump plunge into overtime,” DeHaan said.

According to DeHaan, as of Monday, gas prices had fallen $1.85/gal in Michigan since June 28, the largest drop in the nation. Following close behind: Kentucky, down $1.66/gal, Indiana, down $1.62/gal, Ohio, down $1.61/gal, and Illinois, down $1.60/gal over the same time frame.


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Merry Christmas! Gas prices still falling

Drivers are lining up to take advantage of the lower gas prices. They fell to $1.94 this week. Post photo by L. Allen.

Drivers are lining up to take advantage of the lower gas prices. They fell to $1.94 this week. Post photo by L. Allen.

Gas prices fell another 19 cents in Cedar Springs this week. Last Wednesday, prices were at $2.13 a gallon, the lowest they had been since the spring of 2009. As of Tuesday, December 23, they had dropped to $1.94 per gallon. The average in Grand Rapids is $2.03, and the Michigan average is $2.18. The national average is $2.37.

“As Americans take to the road for Christmas travel, they’ve all been given a gift that keeps on giving: falling gas prices,” said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst with GasBuddy. “Americans are saving over $13 million dollars an hour versus gas prices a year ago- adding up to over $315 million every day. Big declines were witnessed in Montana, Michigan, Indiana, Idaho, and Ohio, where average prices fell over 20 cents on average just in the last seven days but everyone has been a winner.”

“Just in the last 24 hours, the national average has declined nearly 7c/gallon, one of the largest single day decreases ever. However, I’m worried the decline may soon begin slowing- oil prices have held in the mid-$50s, and the concrete may be setting in. If it does, and oil prices fail to drop below $50/bbl, gas prices likely won’t drop more than another 10-20 cents per gallon. Either way, a sneak peak at our soon to be released 2015 gas price forecast reveals a yearly national average far lower than what we saw this year,” DeHaan said.


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Gas prices drop below $3

N-Gas-2.98Gas prices dropped to $2.98 per gallon Wednesday evening, the first time prices have been below $3 in three years.

Fill up now, GasBuddy says they will be spiking again soon.

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Gas prices rise here, fall in other states

N-Gas-prices-under3-webBy Judy Reed


Cedar Springs and the greater Grand Rapids area saw gas prices rise to $3.49 early this week, while drivers in 18 other states saw gas prices fall to below $3/gallon.

So why is gas rising here while falling in other states? According to Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst of GasBuddy.com, the Great Lakes is a volatile and competitive region. “Gas stations started selling gas under cost. They lose 5 or 10-cents a gallon over the course of a week or two, and then need to restore the price,” he explained. “Then the competition starts again, and prices start to go back down.” He said this strange price cycling has been going on since 2000.

He believes that by Thanksgiving we might see prices under $3. He said we could tell prices are on a downward trend, because each time they go up, it’s not as high. “This time it was $3.49, last time it was $3.59, and the time before that it was $3.65.”

Some parts of Michigan already have gas prices hovering around $3.10-$3.15.


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Adapt your vehicle and driving habits to combat rising gas prices

Looking for ways to save money at the pump? A truck bed cover can reduce drag and cut fuel consumption.

(ARA) Just as Americans are gearing up for warm-weather road trips and family vacations, prices at the gas pump are rising. For most people, driving is essential for getting to work, taking kids to school and going out to have some fun, so filling up the tank is a non-negotiable expense. However, costs add up quickly as fuel prices climb higher, taking up more of your budget.

If you want to keep your plans in place and your spending on track, it’s important to be smart about fuel consumption. Not everyone can afford to buy a new, ultra-fuel-efficient car, so making adjustments to your existing vehicle—and your driving habits—can help you stretch the dollars you spend at the pump.

* Drive mindfully: If you’re used to speeding up fast and braking at the last moment, you need to reconsider how you’re operating your vehicle. Those habits can drain your gas tank and send you back to the pump more often. Instead, make a conscious effort to accelerate and slow down gradually and use cruise control to maintain a constant speed, all of which will help to use fuel more efficiently. When possible, avoid idling and make plans for running errands, to cut down on the number of trips you take.

* Reduce drag: If you drive a truck, smoothing out the aerodynamics of your truck with a truck bed cover or a tonneau cover can make a big difference in fuel consumption. Covers are a simple solution that will give you immediate gas mileage improvement. The roll-up cover is lockable, so it protects your gear and improves the look of your vehicle in addition to reducing drag and bringing down your gas costs. Covers can be added easily with clamp-on installation and can be rolled up behind the cab when not in use.

* Choose wisely: You’re typically given three options at the pump, with a trio of gasolines with different octane levels and different prices. One of the simplest ways to cut costs is to opt for the lowest octane fuel that you can use in your vehicle. Making this change can save you hundreds of dollars per year, without sacrificing performance or gas mileage.

* Give your vehicle a check-up: Maintenance and mileage can go hand in hand, so it’s important to make sure that your car is in shape for saving fuel. Check and change your oil regularly. It’s an essential component in reducing wear caused by friction between moving parts in the engine. If it’s not clean, or if levels are low, your vehicle won’t be performing as efficiently as possible. Equally important to getting good mileage is the air pressure in your tires, which should be at the manufacturer’s recommended levels (often listed on the driver’s side door frame). Proper inflation can improve your gas mileage by up to 3 percent. A check of the air, oil and fuel filters should also be included in a check-up.

Making adjustments to your vehicle and the way you drive can be the best way to save yourself from going over budget on gasoline. Start with these tips and you’ll be able to enjoy the season the way you want to.


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Speculators are driving up gas prices

by Sen. Carl Levin


Once again, oil prices are spiking, threatening our economic recovery and causing real hardship for American families and businesses. The price of a barrel of oil is up nearly 30 percent since early October.

Unfortunately, that’s nothing new. For years now, the commodity markets have taken the American people on an expensive and damaging roller coaster ride with rapidly changing prices for crude oil. At the start of 2007, oil cost about $50 a barrel. By July of 2008, oil prices had shot to nearly $150 per barrel and then, by the end of the year, crashed to $35. In the beginning of 2011, oil prices took off again, climbing to over $110 a barrel in May. By October, the price fell to $75 a barrel, a drop of more than 30 percent over four months. Now, three and a half months later, oil prices are back up.

One of the major factors driving these high prices isn’t getting enough attention: excessive speculation in the commodity markets.  Investigations by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which I chair, have shown how the activities of speculators – those who don’t produce or use oil, but who bet on oil price changes – have overwhelmed normal supply and demand factors and pushed up prices at the expense of consumers and American business.

In 2006, the subcommittee released a report that found that billions of dollars in trading by speculators in the crude oil market was responsible for an estimated $20 out of the then $70 cost for a barrel of oil that year – and a corresponding rise in the price at the gas pump. Since then, even more speculators have entered the commodity markets. Today they bet billions of dollars on oil prices every day.

Oil markets exist to enable producers of oil and users of oil to do business. But at a November hearing before my subcommittee, the chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Gary Gensler, testified that 80 percent or more of oil trades are now made by speculators. In February, Forbes magazine, citing a recent report by Goldman Sachs, reported that oil speculation adds 56 cents to the price of each gallon of gas bought at the pump.

Before speculators flooded the markets, oil prices were determined by fundamental market forces of supply and demand. When supplies were tight and demand high, prices went up. In contrast, when supplies were ample and demand low, prices went down.  Nowadays, that relationship is largely absent. There is no shortage in the supply of oil globally, and the United States is producing more oil than it has in a decade. Last year, the United States actually exported more gasoline and other petroleum products than we imported. At the same time, U.S. demand for fuel actually sank.

Under normal economic conditions, rising production and lower demand should mean lower prices. Instead, prices are more volatile than ever. One key reason is that speculators are playing too large a role in the oil market. If we are to get a handle on oil prices, we have to curb excessive speculation.

Congress has already taken the first steps. In July 2010, we told federal regulators to establish rules to prevent speculators from dominating markets and distorting prices. Last year, the regulators rolled out the new rules. They are not as tough as they should be, but the real problem is that they are not yet fully in force. That means this important new tool lies dormant. One big roadblock is that the financial industry has filed a lawsuit to stop it from taking effect.

In the meantime, Congress should acknowledge that speculation is helping to drive up gas prices. We should urge federal regulators to exercise emergency authority, without waiting any longer, to clamp down on excessive speculation in the oil markets.

Congress should also ask more of the president’s task force on commodity speculation. A year ago, Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island and I sent a letter asking President Obama to convene a task force to investigate and combat excessive oil speculation. While the attorney general did convene a task force, it focused on criminal cases instead of the broader problem of commodity traders driving up gas prices. The task force should urgently refocus and bring its firepower to the battle against excessive speculation.

American families cannot afford the current price of oil and neither can our economy, which after four years is beginning to turn a corner toward real growth. Ignoring how speculators affect oil prices could put our recovery at risk.

Carl Levin is the senior U.S. senator from Michigan.

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Gasoline prices likely to set record highs this year

The price of gasoline jumped 23 cents Wednesday. Cars lined up at Admiral in Cedar Springs Wednesday, anticipating the jump from $3.36 per gallon for unleaded, to $3.59. Post photos by J. Reed.

Drivers might want to put aside a little extra money for driving expenses this year. That’s because experts are predicting we’ll see record high gas prices again in 2012.
“Average gasoline prices are moving up as we enter the New Year, a trend that has held since 2008,” said GasBuddy.com Senior Petroleum Analyst Patrick DeHaan. “The biggest problem with that trend holding true this year is that we’re starting 2012 about 20 cents per gallon higher than 2011, breaking yet another high price record and setting up an ugly year for motorists,” DeHaan said.
What does that mean?
“As 2011 has come to a close, that’s cause for concern,” says Gregg Laskoski, Senior Petroleum Analyst for GasBuddy.com. “Why? For the past seven years, the average price movement from the beginning of the year to the peak price posted during the year has been $0.93 cents per gallon, and as high as $1.31/gallon. Last year was actually a good snapshot of what we’ve seen for the past seven years. 2010 ended with the national average at $3.05 and we saw the annual spring 2011 climb push the national average 91 cents higher to its peak level as early as May 11, when it reached $3.96 per gallon,” Laskoski explained.
“In three of the last seven years, the spread between the yearly starting price and the peak exceeded $1 per gallon and only once in the past seven years was the spread below 82 cents per gallon. While past performance is no indication of future prices, if the national average doesn’t move closer toward orunder $3 per gallon by the year’s end, we could be paying over $4/gal next spring,” said DeHaan.

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Gas prices dropping?

Gas prices in Grand Rapids have remained higher than Cedar Springs and Sparta, and in some cases, are 20 cents or more per gallon over what you would pay here.

According to the Grand Rapids weekly price update, as of Monday, August 8, the average retail gasoline prices in Grand Rapids had risen 3.9 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $3.76, while the national average had dropped by about the same amount, 3.7, cents to $3.66.

Patrick DeHaan, Senior Petroleum Analyst at GasBuddy.com, predicted Monday that prices would drop this week. “We’re watching an incredible decline in the price of crude oil and gasoline futures that will most certainly have an impact in the upcoming week at the pump. While motorists won’t see large drops all at once, I most certainly expect declines in the days ahead,” he said. “Oil prices have shed nearly $15 per barrel in just a week—a dramatic decline brought on by various concerns, but mainly a weak manufacturing report and concern surrounding a possible downgrade of U.S. credit ratings,” DeHaan added.

While some Grand Rapids gas stations have lowered prices, many are still in the $3.76 range, while gas prices in Cedar Springs and Sparta were down to $3.53 and $3.54 per gallon, a couple of cents cheaper than earlier in the week.

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Gas prices falling

By Judy Reed

Drivers are finding a bit of relief from rising gas prices, although it may not be long-lived. According to grandrapidsgasprices.com, the average retail price in the Grand Rapids area fell 13.2 cents per gallon as of Monday, averaging $3.49 per gallon.
By press time Wednesday, prices in Cedar Springs had fallen to $3.43 per gallon.
But even with the bit of relief, prices were still 60-plus cents higher than this time last year, and 46 cents lower than a month ago.
Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum expert at gasbuddy.com, said that the prices could continue to drop for a week or two before settling. “A number of factors is working to push prices down,” he explained, “rising inventories, Saudi Arabia saying they’ll pump more oil, a stronger dollar, economic concerns, and most recently, release of emergency stockpiles.”
Visit grandrapidsgasprices.com to see the price of gas around the area.

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How to spend less on fuel when gas prices rise

(ARA) – Remember when $4 seemed like an outrageous amount to spend on a gallon of gasoline? Now that number doesn’t seem so far-fetched. While you can’t do anything to control the unrest in the Middle East or oil rig explosions that could lead to gas prices spiking at a moment’s notice, there are a few things you can do to help ease the pain of high gas prices.
While buying a more fuel-efficient car might be an option for some, new and used cars that get more miles per gallon tend to be more in demand – and more expensive – when gas prices are high. If a new car isn’t an option for you, implementing the following changes can help ensure that you get the most from the fuel in your gas tank:
* Keep the gas you buy in your car. When gas prices are low, stealing gas would likely be more trouble than it’s worth, but when prices are high, it’s not uncommon for thieves to siphon gas from vehicles, especially those with larger tanks. Adding a locking gas cap can be done for much less than the cost of a tank of gas. In addition to preventing theft, locking fuel tank caps can also prevent anyone from tampering with your gas tank.
* Keep your tank full. While you’re looking to reduce the amount of gasoline you are using, constantly running your car with the tank close to empty can wear down your fuel pump. “The gasoline in the tank keeps the fuel pump cool. Take away the gas and the fuel pump runs hot and has a shorter life,” says Tom Taylor, engineer and vice president of RockAuto.com. If you have an older car that has accumulated dirt and rust at the bottom of the tank, keeping a full tank can help your fuel burn cleaner.
* Keep your car in shape. Keeping your engine properly tuned improves fuel efficiency by an average of 4 percent and repairing a major issue like a faulty oxygen sensor could improve efficiency by up to 40 percent, according the U.S. Department of Energy. The RockAuto.com parts catalog has oxygen sensors from $10 to more than $100 depending on the car,” says Taylor. Especially if you’re a do-it-yourselfer, you could quickly recoup the cost of an oxygen sensor or other repair after as little as one tank of gas through improved fuel economy.
* Keep your tires inflated properly. Keeping your tires at the optimal level not only keeps you safer, but can improve your gas mileage by up to 3.3 percent, according to the Department of Energy. Your owner’s manual should tell you the proper psi (pounds per square inch) levels for your vehicle.
* Drive for optimal gas mileage. How you drive can affect how much gas you use. Most cars run at peak efficiency at around 60 mph, with fuel economy decreasing sharply when traveling faster. Aggressive driving with rapid acceleration and slowing will also have a negative effect on your fuel economy.
* Reduce weight and drag. Getting rid of items such as roof equipment when they aren’t being used can help your car become more aerodynamic and run more efficiently. Keeping unnecessary items in your car, especially if they are heavy, can also make your car work harder and use more fuel than it needs to.
By adding up the small savings gained by each of these tips, you can really notice a difference on how much you are paying at the pump, especially over a long period of time.

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