W.Va. Gas Prices See Extreme Highs And Lows
President Biden has called on Congress to suspend the 18 cents a gallon federal gasoline and 24 cents a gallon diesel fuel taxes for the next 90 days.
In West Virginia, gasoline prices are seeing extreme highs and lows. WVPB spoke with some state petroleum and retail experts on the polarity in what you’re paying at the pump.
Why the big disparity in West Virginia gas prices? Over the past week or so, gas in Charleston and Huntington has hovered around $4.99 a gallon. But in southern, rural Athens, West Virginia, gas was 30 cents a gallon less. It was 20 cents cheaper in Princeton and in the Lewisburg area, $4.43 a gallon – 56 cents cheaper than in the state’s Capital.
On Wednesday in Shepherdstown, near the Maryland border, gas was $4.25 a gallon.
The experts blame a number of factors.
Traci Nelson, president of the West Virginia Oil Marketers and Grocers Association said the cost of living is higher in urban areas and gas prices often follow suit. She said cities like Princeton, Lewisburg and Shepherdstown – closer to the Virginia border where the gas tax is lower, or Maryland, which instituted a gas tax holiday – are competing with out-of-state-retailers.
“It hurts the West Virginia economy because if they cross that border to buy their gasoline, they're going to make one trip,” Nelson said. “They may be buying their tobacco products and they're going to be buying their groceries in some cases.”
Patrick De Haan is a petroleum analyst with GasBuddy, a fuel savings app. He said there's been an incredible amount of volatility in the wholesale price of gasoline itself.
“Stations that may be more rural could be buying gasoline that's two weeks old, and they paid a much higher or lower price,” DeHaan said. “Rural areas may also have lower overhead costs, lower costs of personnel. The cost of labor could be lower, property taxes lower and the cost of operating a business in rural America generally is lower. And so that factors into what a station charges as well.”
Lynda Lambert, media spokesperson for AAA’s East Central region said West Virginia is paying some of the lowest prices in the country right now.
“In California they're paying almost $7 a gallon,” Lambert said. “In New York and Pennsylvania, states where there's more population and higher taxes, those people are paying more. The national average today is $4.96; this time last year, it was $3.07. In West Virginia today, it's $4.93; last year it was $3.”
West Virginia gas retailer Nelson said high gas prices have more drivers just filling up without coming in the store.
“I don't know if they're using credit cards, if that's making the difference,” Nelson said. “People are still coming in the store a little bit, but maybe not as much as they were.”
AAA’s Lambert said in- and out-of-state tourists are still driving to WV vacation spots
“It's an expense that Americans value,” Lambert said. “They treasure getting out there and enjoying those summer vacations making memories with family and friends. So if they can, people will most likely cut back in other areas so that they have the money to spend on that summer vacation.”
Lambert said with gas price volatility, she doesn't know how long that traveling value may last.