Gas prices drop — area drivers yawn

The average price of gas has droppedfor the first time since January after hitting an all-time high in May, but drivers for the most part seemed unfazed, saying prices will have to come down substantially before they stop shopping around.

The average price of gas dropped seven cents to $3.11 a gallon nationwide from last month’s price of $3.18, according to the latest Lundberg Survey, a biweekly gas price-tracking report released Monday.

San Francisco gas prices, among the nation’s most costly, averaged $3.52 on Monday, down from a May average of $3.69, AAA spokeswoman Cynthia Harris said. Oakland and San Jose rates were about 14 cents cheaper than San Francisco’s prices, according to AAA.

The amount of foreign gas consumed in the United States has ballooned from 2.7 percent in 1981 to about 12 percent in 2006, oil industry analyst Trilby Lundberg said.

A jump in foreign imports from countries such as Canada, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom was the biggest factor in the downward price trend, Lundberg said. Another factor is an increased number of refineries returning to full capacity after freak occurrences, such as lightning, produced more than 30 refining interruptions in recent months, Lundberg said.

Filling his Lincoln Continental with premium gasoline at $3.63 a gallon in Millbrae, Harold Guetersloh, of South San Francisco, shrugged off the recent dip. “I keep an eye out for the cheapest prices,” Guetersloh said.

San Franciscan Deepa Gandhi said she too has been more conscious about taking BART to her job in Oakland in recent weeks, even on days she knew she will have to do fieldwork.

“I think the price of gas is so high right now that seven cents doesn’t make that big a difference to me,” Gandhi said.

Drivers aren’t the only ones feeling the pinch, said Frank Lopez, who manages independent gas station The Market in Millbrae.

“Since gas prices went above $3 per gallon, we’ve seen a decrease in sales overall,” said Lopez, who has been in the business for eight years.

His company is downsizing and looking to get out of the gasoline business altogether, having closed four of its five outlets in Northern California in the last two years, Lopez said.

“Some months we make minus the per-gallon price we pay for gas,” Lopez said. Unlike Shell and 76 stations, independent suppliers have little leverage in the market and have to buy their fuel from big corporations the same way drivers do, Lopez said.

ecarpenter@examiner.com


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