By AMY FRIEDENBERGER and TIM FERAN
The Columbus Dispatch
Gasoline prices dropped sharply at gas stations around the state, sparking long waits as customers lined up for the bargain fill-up.
At one station in downtown Toledo, gas was selling for $2.99 per gallon today, the lowest by far anywhere in the state.
While prices didn’t fall quite that low in Columbus, this morning, nine stations in central Ohio were offering gas at $3.29 per gallon, according to Gasbuddy.com, and local customers made a beeline for the gas line.
Lowest gas prices in Columbus
Dwayne Davis waited almost 25 minutes for his turn at one of the four pumps at the United Dairy Farmers on Indianola Ave. on Friday morning.
About a dozen cars were in line at all times this morning.
“It’s ridiculous that consumers have to run like rats to cheese when the prices are lower, when the government has the ability to do something about this,” said Davis, 44.
The AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report said that the average price for regular unleaded gas in Columbus today was $3.60, exactly the same as the national average, while Toledo’s average was $3.46.
At the United Dairy Farmers on Indianola, Josh Liette, 20, said the line was stretched to the street Thursday night as well, but the price was just too good to pass up, so he returned to the store this morning.
“You just cope and complain,” he said about the unexpected changes in gas prices.
Only last week, gas prices has risen to almost $4 a gallon, a rise attributed to refinery problems.
“It really was a production and transportation issue with the two refineries in Indiana and Illinois,” said Bill Purpura, a spokesman for Ohio AAA. “Now that they’re back on line, it’s making a world of difference in this market.”
The drop in prices was familiar to Tom Kloza, Gasbuddy.com’s chief oil analyst.
“Last year, the retail market bottomed on July 2, and the wholesale market bottomed on the first day of summer, June 20,” Kloza said. “We’ve seen this movie before. My hunch is we’ll find bottom for oil prices this month.”
The Gasbuddy.com analyst said that, based on the cost for refiners, a price of $2.99 per gallon is close to break-even for retailers.
On the other hand, when the price was up around $4 per gallon, “the market had become untethered to reality,” Kloza said.
“When you hit $3.54 per gallon, that meant refiners were paying $80 to $100 a barrel for crude and making almost $150 dollars for the finished product. That is not normal,” he said. “Over 20 years, the average margin has been $5 or $10 a barrel.”
According to GasBuddy.com, the average price on Friday of regular unleaded gas in Ohio was $3.572 and the national average was $3.591.
In Toledo, “most everything else is selling in the $3.14 to $3.20 range,” Purpura said. “But prices definitely have taken a tumble in the northwest quadrant of the state. For folks in that area, that’s good news. It remains to be seen if any of that will show up here in this (Columbus) market.”
A consumer-price index developed by AAA and released in April found that $3.44 a gallon was the typical breaking point for consumers.
“Once gas reaches that point, consumers start to change their habits - their buying habits and their driving habits - and those decisions ultimately affect the economy in general,” Purpura said. “So gas prices are a big deal and it’s one reason why we spend so much time and effort tracking them.”