By SALLY SEXTON
A recent study of gasoline prices shows that 2012 proved to be the year with the most expensive annual statewide average on record.
The study, conducted by the AAA Texas Weekend Gas Watch, shows that gas prices have risen almost 10 cents in the Dallas/Fort Worth area compared to January of 2012, despite highs and lows throughout the year.
Jose Palacios, a clerk at SAI Mart off of Palo Pinto Street, which advertises its current regular unleaded at $3.18 per gallon, said he has noticed a rise and fall, culminating in higher prices, over the last 12 months.
“It started to get pretty high after elections,” he said.
The annual average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in Texas in 2012 was $3.43, compared to the previous annual record of $3.37 in 2011. The third most expensive year for gas prices was in 2008, when the annual average was $3.13.
“What’s crazy is that when the gas goes high, people seem to buy more of it,” Moe Chehade, manager of Valero on Bowie Street, said. “We actually sell less when it’s low and I can’t figure it out.
“I’ve noticed the increase, but it doesn’t seem to bother people. If the customer needs it, they’re going to fill up, no matter what the price is.”
According to AAA, factors including major hurricanes, refinery outages and tension in the Middle East have impacted gas prices and sent markets in an upward swing for most of the year.
The highest daily Texas statewide average of the year was $3.84 on April 5-6, while the lowest daily average statewide was $3.03 on Dec. 20. Gas prices in Texas averaged $3.09 in December, the lowest monthly average of the year.
“You would think with the economy the way it is, that gas prices would be lower, but we have been increasing the last couple of weeks,” said Steven Rice, co-owner of the two Big Pantry stations in Weatherford. “I think the stock market has a lot to do with the gas prices.”
As of Friday, Big Pantry was offering its regular unleaded for $3.29.
“What happens with gas prices this year will depend on what happens both domestically and globally,” said AAA Texas/New Mexico Representative Sarah Schimmer. “Regardless of where gas prices go in the coming year, consumers can keep more money in their pocketbooks by keeping their car maintained to ensure maximum fuel efficiency, traveling light and combining trips.”
Last week, the statewide average for a gallon of regular unleaded increased six cents to $3.13, according to AAA Texas. Motorists in Texarkana are paying the most on average at $3.19 per gallon, while drivers in El Paso are paying an average of $3.03.
AAA Texas forecasts that, following the fiscal cliff deal, prices this year will remain high, but may be cheaper than in 2012 due to increased domestic crude oil production, which is expected to remain lower than in recent years.
“There was a period where prices did go down, but I think it’s going to continue to increase now,” Palacios said.