By Mike Linn
Virgil Helker fills up his gas tank twice a week for frequent trips to Tucumcari and Portales from his Clovis home.
While his Buick LeSabre gets good gas mileage, a recent drop in gas prices in the area is saving him even more money.
In Clovis, average prices for regular gasoline have dropped 35 cents in the past two months and are 27 cents below the state average of $1.84.
“That’s good news to me,” Helker said while filling up his car Tuesday afternoon in Portales.
Helker said he travels eastern New Mexico to check various properties, and months ago he would spend between $80 and $100 a week on fuel. Now he’s spending between $60 and $75 a week.
The state average for regular gasoline has decreased 5.5 percent in the last month, a decrease likely due to recuperation at gulf coast refineries, which had to cease production for many weeks following the hurricane season, said Jeannie Chavez, a spokeswoman for AAA New Mexico.
“Gulf Coast producers account for about 25 percent of the oil refineries and oil producers in the nation,” Chavez said. “When the hurricanes came through everything was shut down.”
That caused a supply-and-demand nightmare for motorists nationwide, with high demand and low supply forcing a spike in prices at gas stations nationwide.
But six weeks ago those prices began to dip, and they’ve dropped ever since. The national average is $1.88 for regular gasoline, roughly 40 cents lower than this time last year, the AAA New Mexico reported Friday.
But those prices can vary widely from state to state, county to county and station to station, Chavez said.
For example, gasoline in Los Angeles is typically higher than the national average, but once outside city limits those prices are often lower.
The same holds true for this region. Average gas prices in cities of Amarillo, Las Cruces, Albuquerque and Santa Fe were at least 19 cents above the Clovis average on Friday.
Rapid changes per gallon can also occur citywide.
Chavez said the differences in prices per gallon in the same region can often be attributed to market value. If a station decides to drop prices significantly, others in town will often follow suit, Chavez said.
She said some stations are willing to sell gas for less in hopes of increasing sales on grocery items. Some merchants also lower their prices during the Christmas holidays as a way of thanking customers for their patronage throughout the year.