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Price of your pit stop is falling

By: Gloria Young Journal Staff Writer
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Prices at the pump are dropping. A gallon of gas costs about 10 cents less than it did a couple of weeks ago. According to AAA, the price for a gallon of regular unleaded is below $3 in most of Northern California except San Francisco. Still, the state’s average price for a gallon of regular unleaded, at $2.95, is the third highest in the nation, trailing only Hawaii at $3.34 and Alaska at $3.40. Missouri had the lowest average price at $2.42 a gallon. In Northern California, Yuba City had the lowest price at $2.74. The Sacramento area average for a gallon of unleaded was $2.87. “When it comes to oil and gas prices, a balancing act of sorts is currently in effect,” AAA spokesman Matt Skryja said in a press release. “A weak dollar is spurring investors to buy oil, which is helping to drive up the price per barrel. However, vast oil reserves and weak consumer demand are helping to keep prices at the pump relatively stable for motorists across Northern California.” At Rowdy Randy’s in Downtown Auburn Wednesday, regular unleaded was $2.79 for cash and $2.89 for credit. But owner Randy Hicks said the current lower price doesn’t reflect actual wholesale gas prices. “We’re losing money,” he said. “It’s costing us 10 cents more.” Hicks explained that owners of independent stations must lower prices when the major oil companies lower theirs in order to stay competitive. “Zone pricing really hurts the independents,” he said. While many independent stations have closed, Hicks said he has been successful because he monitors the spot market for making his gas purchases. “I get up early and watch the overseas market,” he said. “I have to be on top of purchasing.” The gas he buys could be from any of the major oil companies as well as independents, he said. He also cites his customer base for helping him stay viable. Hicks grew up in Auburn and attended local schools. He and his wife have raised seven children locally, he said. “We have very loyal customers,” he said. “A lot of people know us and we appreciate them.” One of Hicks’ customers is Vicki Kordakis, a Placerville resident who works in Auburn. With family driving up from Los Angeles for Thanksgiving, Kordakis said the lower prices are a welcome sight. “You never know from month to month what it’s going to be,” she said. The holiday weekend typically provides a boost for gas station owners, Hicks said. “We’ll probably go up about 15 percent,” he said. At Auburn Gas and Food on High Street, the price was $2.79 for regular unleaded. Jas Sidhu, owner Ray Sidhu’s son, said customers do notice when prices change. The station pumps more gas when it costs less, he said, adding that the station’s prices would remain at current lower levels through Thanksgiving weekend. Customer Mike Harbour, a Colfax resident, filled his truck with diesel at the station Wednesday. Diesel sees less of a price fluctuation, but he’s always happy to see costs drop, he said. “I live in the hills and have a business in Roseville so that’s a lot of driving,” he said. The least expensive gas in the Auburn area Wednesday was at the Arco station on Dry Creek Road and Highway 49. Customer Micki Lemke, who lives nearby, said she appreciates the lower prices but would like to see them dip much more. “$2.20 would be great,” she said. Auburn resident Karrie Beeman said she watches gas prices and chooses stations posting the lowest rate. But she doesn’t change her driving habits when prices go up. “I’m a student and I have to drive to school (Sierra College),” she said. Gloria Young can be reached at gloriay@goldcountrymedia.com.