(Jeff Roberson ~ Associated Press)
Thanks to current gas prices in Missouri, with regular unleaded selling around $1.93 a gallon on Wednesday, consumers have a little extra wiggle room in their budgets, if the lower prices last.
"About 20 cents less a gallon equates to about $120 a year," said Mike Right, with the AAA Auto Club of Missouri, who surveys prices at the pump in St. Louis County. "That could buy a new washer, a new dress, a great evening out, whatever," he said.
But if there's one thing that's certain about gas prices, it's that's, well, they're unpredictable. While prices had dropped well below $2 a gallon in much of the state, they appeared to be creeping up again, with many stations in the St. Louis area selling at 8 cents to 28 cents above the $2 line by mid-afternoon.
In Cape Girardeau prices remained below that Wednesday afternoon. Signs at Huck's and Basic Fuel boasted $1.79 per gallon for regular unleaded, while Rhodes 101 on Sprigg Street was selling its regular for $1.89 per gallon -- the same price as its E85 ethanol blend.
At a Mobil gas station in the St. Louis suburb of Richmond Heights, hairdresser Angela Sparks, 37, of University City was filling up her 2005 Ford Explorer. She said she has a 1998 sports car she drives when gas prices are higher, and she takes out the Ford SUV when she spots lower-cost fuel.
Claire Kaitz, 21, a Washington University student from Scarsdale, N.Y., said as someone living on a student's budget she treats herself a bit when gas prices drop.
"If I spend a little less on gas, I might ... bring in food from Panera Bread or sushi," she said.
There's been a dramatic decrease in recent weeks in crude oil and wholesale gas prices, Right said, but added parts of the Midwest have regional advantages when it comes to gas prices.
For one, there's a lot of competition for consumers, helping to keep prices low. He said pumps here are relatively close to the fuel supply in Texas and Louisiana compared to some other parts of the nation, helping to keep transportation costs to a minimum.
Additionally, Missouri has lower motor fuel taxes than many other states. He said everyone pays a little more than 18 cents a gallon in federal taxes. In Missouri, there are additional taxes of 17 cents, much lower than in most states, he said.
Southeast Missourian staff writer Matt Sanders contributed to this report.