Missouri's gas prices lowest in nation

Thursday, June 12, 2008

SIKESTON, Mo. — While the price of unleaded fuel topped the $4-a-gallon mark in most states over the weekend, Missouri's price remained the cheapest at an average of $3.815 a gallon.

On Monday, prices in Sikeston ranged from $3.65 a gallon to $3.89 a gallon. Elsewhere in the state, a Shell station in Jane had the lowest price at $3.60 a gallon and a Casey's in Kirksville had the highest price at $4 a gallon, according to GasBuddy.com.

Prices have risen by about 20 cents in the past three weeks, according to a report by the Lundberg Survey released Sunday.

Also Monday, Craig and Julie Simpkins of O'Fallon, who were traveling with their two children through Sikeston on their way to Memphis, Tenn., said fuel prices were 10 cents cheaper here than in St. Louis.

Craig Simpkins travels all over the Midwest for his job and knows just how much soaring prices can affect motorists.

"It adds to the price to every trip. It makes you think: 'What do you have to do today?' If it's 20 cents a mile, that's a dollar for every five miles," he said.

Scotty Jenkins, co-owner of Fas Gas in Sikeston, said besides a decline in lottery ticket sales, business has remained the same at the convenience store, regardless of the higher fuel prices.

"We're pumping more gallons than ever before," Jenkins said.

Yolanda Cade, managing director of public relations at AAA, said gas prices are likely to rise further, although the automotive club is waiting to see where oil prices head this week before making any new predictions.

"We've cautioned gasoline station owners against not recklessly increasing retail prices just because of one big jump in the crude market," she said Sunday. "One day of trading doesn't constitute a market trend."

A number of factors are behind oil's rise.

Soaring demand in Asia and elsewhere is ensuring global supplies remain tight even as Americans cut back; recent figures from the U.S. Energy Department's Energy Information Administration showed U.S. gasoline demand actually fell 1.4 percent over the last four weeks.

A tumbling dollar is also contributing to the increase. Many traders buy commodities such as oil as a hedge against inflation when the dollar is falling, and a weaker dollar makes oil cheaper for investors dealing in other currencies.

The rapid increase has also enticed speculators, frustrated by low returns elsewhere, looking to make a quick profit.

The influx of so much fresh money into energy markets has caught the attention of federal watchdogs. The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission recently said it has begun a probe of U.S. oil markets focused on possible price manipulation.

For many drivers like the Simpkins family, the higher gas prices mean rethinking everyday habits.

Gas-saving measures Simpkins takes include driving his company car instead of his van and combining trips — both professionally and personally — whenever he can, he said.

For example, he's heading to Memphis for business but was able to bring his wife and children along for the trip, he said.

Julie Simpkins said the higher prices have definitely caused her to better plan her trips in advance. The family looks for ways to have fun closer to home, she said.

"We go to the park and grill hot dogs. We did that last week," Simpkins said.

Sheila Evans of Benton rode her bike to her job at the Scott County Courthouse on Monday.

"I do it every now and then, especially in the summer," Evans said. I'm probably going to start to do it more just because of the gas prices. Every little bit helps."

Even though she lives only a block or two away from the courthouse in Benton, Evans said there are benefits to not driving her car. Besides saving fuel, she doesn't have to get in a hot car to drive to work, and she gets to work faster. Riding her bike is good exercise, she added.

"I know several people [who work] at the courthouse have told me they wished they lived close enough to ride a bike to work," Evans said. Maybe the most difficult part of riding her bike to work is trying to find a place to put her purse. "I just put it on the handle bar," Evans said. "It's not that bad."

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