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Area Gas Prices Higher than State Average; Relief May Be on the Way; ‘Prices Have Started Dropping Off’

By Ethan Woodhouse

Photo by Daniel B. Caton, Professor and Director of Observatories, ASU

May 17, 2012. As summer sets in, many families are taking to the road for vacation and various travels. With fiscal responsibility of the utmost importance many travelers have taken to the web to locate the cheapest gas in their area of travel. But in these times, even the cheapest gas raises eyebrows and empties pockets.

Here in the High Country, prices of late have teetered in the $3.75 to $3.85 range. You’ll be hard pressed to find anything cheaper.

The Wilco Hess station located at 2702 Highway 105 was selling gas at $3.78 a gallon Thursday morning, good for most affordable gas in Boone.

“We hear a lot of complaints,” said Jennifer Farrow, manager. “Prices have started dropping off a bit. I’ve been here for 5 years and I think gas is higher when college is in session.”

Even as college students flock out of town and gas prices steadily trend down, little relief is provided to drivers across the state.

Towns like Forest City, Denver and Thomasville, all within a couple hours of the High Country, see gas prices up to 40 cents cheaper per gallon then what High Country residents see.

Murphy Oil USA, based out of Arkansas, operates gas stations in Thomasville and Forest City that offer some of the cheapest gas in the state. These prices range from $3.38 to $3.42.

The nearest Murphy Oil stations are based in Wilkesboro and West Jefferson. But their prices are also about a dime higher than stations located further down the mountain.

Employees at all these stations could offer little explanation for the prices of their gas. Home offices set prices and staff cited the competitive nature of the industry as explanation for the expensive nature of gasoline.

Some of the most expensive gas in the state can be found in other tourist hotbeds like Hatteras Island, Asheville and Charlotte. Stations in these areas typically price their gas between $3.80 and $3.89

Gasoline pricing in these areas tends to trickle down to surrounding smaller towns. Marshall, located in the mountains on the North Carolina-Tennessee border, has seen gas prices top $3.90.

At the Triangle Service Station in Marshall, NC, prices had reached $3.96 per gallon Thursday morning.

“I don’t know why they’re so high,” said Triangle owner Jeff Edwards. “I wish I did.”

Triangle station receives their gasoline from O.A. Gregory Inc., an oil supplier located in Marshall. They receive their oil from Spartanburg, NC.

“I think rural areas don’t reduce their prices as much as they do to the main public, in bigger cities,” O.E. Gregory President R.J. Plemmons said. “When Spartanburg raises their prices it takes awhile for it to go in to effect up here.”

Plemmons did offer some good news to consumers though.

“We’re on a trend right now that looks like prices will go down,” Plemmons said. “We’re in an election year and leaders are advertising and talking up the issue. These leaders want our votes, so they’ll be working to get prices lower.”

Area drivers interested in tracking affordable  gas can visit http://www.northcarolinagasprices.com/.