Drivers enjoying drop in gas prices

Drivers enjoying drop in gas prices

DANVILLE — Who doesn't love a good gas war?

Margie Brown said she doesn't.

"I think they should all be comparable," Brown said of gas prices.

The Hoopeston resident, who prefers them comparably low, drove about 30 miles Wednesday morning to the new Meijer gas station in Danville to fill her tank with $2.92-a-gallon gas.

It was one of the lowest, if not the lowest, prices in the Danville area, where people are suddenly talking about a gas war since Meijer opened its station in early October, dropped its price below $3 a gallon and kept it there. Some stations quickly matched the price or hovered close by.

Drivers in Champaign-Urbana were also enjoying prices below $3 a gallon Wednesday. The Meijer and Murphy stations on North Prospect Avenue in Champaign were both selling at $2.96 a gallon Wednesday afternoon, according to GasBuddy.com.

Cory Roberts of Tuscola was filling up in Champaign on Wednesday. He racks up about 700 miles a week through his job, so he always consults his gas-price application on his cellphone. He won't go out of his way for cheaper gas, he said, but he will seek out the lowest price in his immediate area.

For most of the year, Danville has not been the destination for low gas prices — consistently higher than towns and cities in west central Indiana and East Central Illinois, according to Danville Mayor Scott Eisenhauer, who has been tracking prices since the spring.

Amy Elrod of Danville, who was filling up at Meijer in Danville on Wednesday, said she usually gets gas on her trips to Champaign-Urbana, because gas there is normally cheaper.

Meijer's price at its new Danville gas station has been as low as $2.94 a gallon for much of the last two weeks, with vehicles stacked, at times, two rows deep waiting for an open pump. On Wednesday, Meijer's price dropped another 2 cents to $2.92 a gallon, one day before its new Danville store opens at 9:30 a.m. today (Thursday, Nov. 7) with a ribbon cutting at 10 a.m.

"It's probably just a promotion," said Brown, who filled up at the Meijer station last week and headed into Danville again Wednesday after seeing a post from a friend on Facebook that Meijer still had the lowest price. Brown said gas was $3.15 a gallon in Hoopeston on Wednesday, which would still be below the national average of $3.23 a gallon, according to AAA's Fuel Gauge Report and GasBuddy.com. The average in Illinois was a little higher at $3.28 a gallon for regular, according to AAA.

Frank Guglielmi with the Meijer corporation said its price at its Danville station is not a special that coincides with the opening of the new store. He said Meijer generally wants its stations to have the lowest prices in their area. There are so many factors that play into pricing, he said, including the identity of the wholesaler. But generally, Meijer always wants to have the lowest price, he said.

Low prices are more important to some, like Roberts, who travels for work.

"I drive a lot, so it's important for me to find the cheapest gas there is," said Roberts, who expects the low prices to fade away as the holiday travel season approaches.

Don Fullerton, a professor of economics at the University of Illinois, has done some research on gas-price fluctuations. He said Meijer could be keeping its price low in Danville to draw people in and change their habits, even to the point of losing money to gain customers and gain market share.

But, he said, there are always gas-price fluctuations, and it's kind of random. There are some fundamentals that affect pricing, like the price of oil. But there are so many other factors than can affect pricing, like fluctuations in supply and demand, the surprise discovery of cheap oil underground or a country that decides to sell more than it has in the past.

"It's really a world commodity," he said. The surprises, he said, can't be predicted, so those aren't reflected in prices until they happen. The things that are predictable, like travel increasing around the holidays, are already factored into prices, he said.

Eisenhauer began tracking Danville gas prices earlier this year. He said there was no question that there were times when Danville was significantly higher than other towns and cities.

Gas prices in Illinois and other Midwestern states, like Michigan and Indiana, topped $4 a gallon in early June, when several Midwestern refineries had shutdowns for various reasons, but prices have generally fallen since then. They've taken longer to fall in some areas.

In July, Danville prices ranged from $3.69 to $3.79 a gallon for unleaded while only $3.44 to $3.49 a gallon in Champaign-Urbana and $3.29 to $3.39 a gallon across the state line in Covington, Ind.

Chris Pierce of Danville said he knows people in Danville who would drive to Covington, Ind., this summer for the cheaper gas. He said he doesn't like to go that far, but he did pass up other stations in Danville on Wednesday to get Meijer's low price. He said it's just nice to see gas below $3 a gallon again.

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