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F-M gas prices dip below $3 for first time since January

By Dave Olson / The Forum

FARGO – The price of regular gasoline has slipped to around $2.99 a gallon at several stations in the Fargo-Moorhead area, the first time since January that gas has visited sub-$3 territory.

The drop is clearly good news for consumers, said Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council.

“When you think about gasoline (price) that starts with a 2 instead of a 4, it certainly makes quite a difference to disposable income,” Ness said.

Nationally, the average price for gas is still about $3.20 per gallon, a discrepancy Ness said is typical.

“Fargo is a very competitive market, with various pipelines coming in and supply options from various directions,” he said.

“If you look at it from a consumer standpoint, I believe (Fargo’s market) traditionally ranks at about the fifth-best market in America.

“If you’re a retailer trying to sell gas, it’s about the fifth-worst market in America,” Ness said, adding that service stations in the Fargo-Moorhead area depend on the sale of non-gas items to survive.

Multiple factors

The reasons for the latest decline in gasoline prices are many, said Gene LaDoucer, a spokesman for AAA North Dakota.

“Demand has been soft because of the still-recovering economy, and we’ve seen a buildup of supplies of crude oil, largely as a result of domestic production,” he said. A quiet hurricane season and relative peace in oil-producing parts of the world are also helping keep a lid on gas prices, he said.

“It’s just been a good period of virtually no news, and that’s allowed for gasoline prices to come down,” LaDoucer said.

As bright as the picture looks for consumers, LaDoucer said drivers shouldn’t look for gas prices to drop much more, at least not soon.

“It looks like we may be at or near the bottom right now,” he said, adding that further downward movement in gas prices is unlikely unless the price of crude oil drops from its current $94 a barrel, which it has hovered at for a while now.

Ness agreed, stating that demand for gasoline is low while supply remains strong, due in part to North Dakota’s contribution to the world crude oil market.

“We’re starting to have an impact on the world crude price now with American oil production rising rapidly, thanks to North Dakota for leading that effort,” Ness said.

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