Gas prices show unusual variation
Pity the poor motorist in Danville.
Folks filling their tanks in the Danville area on Wednesday were generally paying $3.69 to $3.79 a gallon for unleaded gasoline, according to GasBuddy.com, which monitors prices across the nation.
Meanwhile, in Champaign-Urbana — only 35 miles to the west — gas was selling for $3.44 to $3.49 a gallon.
To Danville's east — across the state line in Covington, Ind. — gas prices were even lower, in the $3.29 to $3.39 range.
Those were a few of the oddities illustrating the unusual variation in gas prices across central Illinois and Indiana this week.
Prices were unusually low in Indianapolis, where gas sold for $3.04 to $3.07 early in the day, and in Bloomington, Ill., where typical prices were $3.23 to $3.25. Later in the day, Indianapolis prices shot up by 10 to 15 cents.
Monticello prices on Wednesday were typically $3.32 a gallon; Decatur, $3.38 a gallon; and Mattoon, $3.61 a gallon.
On Wednesday, GasBuddy's "national gas price heat map" showed:
— Relatively low prices (less than $3.37 a gallon), characterized by greens, in the Southeast U.S.
— Relatively moderate prices ($3.37 to $3.48), characterized by yellows, across many of the Great Lakes states.
— Relatively high prices ($3.59 and above), characterized by oranges and reds, in the Pacific and Mountain West.
But Illinois was a mishmash, with McLean and Piatt counties colored in green; Champaign County in light orange, and Vermilion County in dark orange.
Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com, attributed the big variations to "sheer competition" within markets.
"Indianapolis prices tend to be the lowest and quickest to come down. There's more competition in that area," he said.
Gas prices in Michigan, Indiana and Illinois topped $4 a gallon in early June, when several Midwestern refineries had shutdowns for various reasons.
But prices have generally fallen since then, faster in some areas than others.
The drops may not last long.
DeHaan said he looks for retail prices to rise as a result of the recent increase in crude oil prices, now in the $100-a-barrel range.
The increase has been attributed to unrest in Egypt and the potential for instability in the Middle East, he said.
Already, DeHaan said, retail prices in Michigan have jumped 15 to 20 cents a gallon on average.
In Illinois, "prices certainly could rebound if they haven't already, in line with what we've already seen in some areas of the Midwest," he said.
Those increases could last several weeks — or longer — depending "on the severity of the Egypt situation," he said.