Pain at the pump eased

Monday, October 6th 2008, 6:59 pm
By: News 9

By Alex Cameron, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Falling fuel prices aren't exactly bringing smiles to those employed in Oklahoma's oil and gas industry, but for most consumers, they are welcome relief.

It may seem strange to get excited to see gas prices going below $3.00 a gallon, when it wasn't that long ago it was shocking to see gas reach $2.00 a gallon.

Memory is fleeting, however, and in October 2008, $2.99 sounds pretty good. Gas prices have dropped 70 cents in a span of just three weeks, primarily, experts say, because of the sagging economy.

"Things are sluggish nationwide, economically speaking," Chuck Mai with AAA Oklahoma said. "Demand still is down considerably. No bad news on the horizon that might threaten supply and the price of crude is really low."

And now the cost of diesel has started to come down; good news for business, and for consumers.

"Because as diesel falls, the cost of everything we buy in the stores is going to fall as well," Mai said.

Lower diesel prices could also spell "help" for school districts.

"In the last two years, our transportation budget has increased 74 percent," Norman Schools Chief Financial Officer Brenda Burkett said.

Norman Schools Chief Financial Officer Brenda Burkett said, to be safe, they budgeted for a 20 percent increase in fuel costs this year, that's $100,000 additional dollars.

"I am hopeful, though, right now, with the prices holding, and actually dropping some, that that will just be a return to the district's operational budget as opposed to being used," Burkett said.

But for that to happen, these low prices will have to last, and every consumer has learned, as quickly as prices have come down, they could go up even faster.

"The fly in the ointment right now, we're seeing lower prices, but how long will they stick around? It's really subject to the next bad news that comes down the pike," Mai said.

That bad news could come in the form of another hurricane, some new crisis in the Mideast, anything that might disrupt the supply or flow of crude oil.

If nothing like that does happen, AAA officials said demand will remain low and prices will drop even more, maybe as low as $2.50 a gallon.