Weeks after gas prices broke records, Miners are starting to see some relief at the pump, but industry experts say it’s too early to say whether the downtrend will continue.
The average gallon of regular gasoline in Maine was $4.77 on Friday according to GasBuddy, a Boston-based fuel price analysis company that tracks fuel prices across the country.
York County reported the lowest countywide average at $4.61 a gallon, which is significantly lower than neighboring Cumberland County ($4.85). Androscoggin County had the highest average at $4.86.
Even the highest prices in the state reflect a decline from mid-June, when gas prices in Maine averaged $5.09, the highest ever per gallon in the state.
The national average has fallen for four consecutive weeks, the longest decline in average gas prices since before the pandemic, according to GasBuddy. Public relationsSnow in Maine is still generally above the national average, which on Friday was $4.55 per gallon.
Diesel prices are also dropping, with prices around $5.92 in Maine and $5.59 nationally. That’s down from the state’s previous record of $6.39 in May.
It’s still too early to read price changes, said Charlie Summers, president and CEO of the Energy Marketers Association of Maine.
“Seeing the cost of energy, or gas in this case, going down, is welcome on all fronts,” he said. But it is a volatile situation with the global commodity market. He’s still very fluid.”
While the downward trend was positive, these prices are still well above last year’s average of $3.11.
Except in Buxton.
At Panda Market, a gas station, convenience store, and restaurant serving Chinese food, pizza and sandwiches on Parker Farm Road, fuel is reliably less expensive than its competitors.
On Friday, the gallon was $3.99 a regular gallon.
The day before, more than a dozen cars had waited in line, sometimes for 20 minutes or more, to fill their tanks (and often several gas cans) with what was believed to be the cheapest gas in the state.
Chris Ross, a Buxton resident, is a regular customer at Panda Market. It lives only a few minutes away and is always the least expensive option: win.
“It’s like this every day,” he said of the parking lot.
He estimated that the panda market had been consistently busy for at least a month, but noted that $3.99 was the lowest since prices surged earlier this year. Ross said one of his friends told him the gas had fallen below $4 a gallon and he “jumped on it.” He said it’s a relief to fill out the $75 again, especially since he’s commuting for about 30 minutes to Gray each day.
Mi Yang, owner of Panda Market, said the cheap gas was a strategic business decision. Buxton is a small town in York County and low prices bring in people from all over the world.
“Without her, no one will come here and they will not know what we have,” she said. With low prices, customers come in, stop by, see everything the multi-purpose (store) has to offer and often buy something.
“That’s why everyone knows us.”
Gas and oil prices fell during the height of the pandemic due to lower demand as lockdowns and travel restrictions kept motorists at home. But with restrictions loosening and people starting to go out again, demand is starting to pick up. Supply has not kept pace, causing prices to rise.
Then, in early March, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the United States imposed sanctions on Russia, including an oil import ban.
Patrick de Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, previously said that complex issues have created a rare environment for rapid price hikes.
He said things started to change after a few months.
Gasoline supply began to improve. Inventories have risen for three of the past four weeks, which has helped lower prices, Di Han said. In addition, with the “flash” of inflation, the Federal Reserve was raising interest rates. He said recession fears had raised concerns about lower demand.
De Haan said prices could remain low.
“The risk is that if we see a major hurricane and oil refinery disruption and supply disruptions, we could see higher prices down the road,” he said. “Having said that, we haven’t seen that yet. There are no underlying risks yet, but that could change.”
Prices are dropping, particularly in York County, but some customers remain wary.
At XtraMart in Saco on Thursday, gas was $4.47 a gallon.
Jack Ackley, a Buxton resident, said he was happy to see the price a little lower, but said there was no satisfaction so far. Ackley was considering getting a new car, he said, but the prices made him think about buying smaller, more efficient cars, rather than a truck.
On the way, Bob and Mike’s Mini Mart gasoline was $4.39.
SACO resident Tricia Conley said her behavior hasn’t changed much as prices have fluctuated over the past few months.
However, she is hopeful that the price of heating oil, which has also risen sharply this year, will fall as we enter the colder months.
“For people with a fixed income, this is unbearable,” she said.
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