Gas savings abound in midstate — but not for everyone

The plummeting price of gasoline has drivers giddy with savings, but not everyone is reaping the benefits of lower prices.

Middle Georgians have been paying $2.50 a gallon or less at the pump for a while, a 71-cent difference from the $3.21 per gallon they were paying this time last year.

Even with the dramatic drop, the Macon-Bibb County government is actually paying more per gallon of gas than the average Middle Georgian.

A six-month contract with Mansfield Oil Co. has Macon-Bibb locked into paying $2.66 per gallon, said Sam Hugley, Macon-Bibb County’s director of vehicle and equipment maintenance.

Though that’s 20 cents or more than a gallon of gas costs at many stations across Macon these days, Hugley doesn’t see it as a loss.

“You really can’t look at it like that,” he said. “Years ago, we locked in a gas price and the (price of) fuel just went up. We sat there smiling. ... I just can’t see that fuel staying this low. It will balance out.”

The six-month contract began Sept. 5 and ends March 5, 2015.

In a typical 12-month period, Macon-Bibb buys about 450,000 gallons of gasoline to fuel its 575 gasoline-powered cars and equipment. It also buys about 25,000 gallons of gasoline per month to fuel the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office’s 500 gasoline-powered vehicles.

Sheriff David Davis said the department was under its fuel budget for the fiscal year by about $39,000, as of October. The department’s total fuel budget for the year is about $1.8 million.

“We want to stay under budget,” he said. “We try to tell our folks to be efficient with the use of the vehicles and the fuel. Most of what our job is is on the road answering calls.”

The Bibb County school district isn’t locked in to a fixed-rate contract. It gets quotes from Walthall Oil Co., Davis Oil Co. and Osan Petroleum Co. at the time of purchase, said Anthony Jackson, the district’s director of transportation.

Now, the district is paying $2.30 per gallon of gas, about 50 cents a gallon less than it paid last year. It’s now paying $2.32 per gallon of diesel fuel compared to the $3.25 per gallon it paid last year.

“Just looking at our fuel expenditures from July 1 to October 2013 compared to July 1 to October 2014, we paid about $21,000 less,” Jackson said. “The lower prices are definitely welcome.”

Last year, the Bibb County school system spent $452,000 on fuel during that four-month period, but this year it spent $431,000.

About 30 percent of the district’s 317 vehicles run on gasoline, 60 percent run on diesel fuel, including the buses, and 10 percent run on propane. The district orders 8,000 gallons of gas about every five weeks.

The money saved on fuel this year allows Jackson to look at training and equipment needs within his department, he said.

For some Middle Georgians, cheaper gasoline is welcome, but it doesn’t make a big difference for now.

Jean and Hall Florists delivers flowers all over Bibb County in four pickup trucks. On a slow day, the florist makes anywhere from 50 to 75 residential deliveries, co-owner Burney Roddenbery said..

Since opening 1952, the store had offered those deliveries at no charge, but when gas prices soared into the $4 range about five years ago, Roddenbery said she had to add a small fee to offset gas expenses.

But even with gasoline prices at a four-year low, Roddenbery said she doesn’t feel the savings are having a significant impact on her business.

“Anytime anything is (cheaper), hallelujah,” Roddenbery said. “But you honestly can’t say you’re making more money” just because of gas prices.

Gregg Laskoski, a senior petroleum analyst with GasBuddy.com, said the aggressive decline of gas prices is attributable to more than just the usual peaks and valleys.

“The price of crude oil is the most important single factor in the retail price of gasoline,” Laskoski said. “Crude oil, right now, is selling at about 40 percent less than what it was (in May) when it was at its highest point at about $108 per barrel.”

A number of factors on a global scale are contributing to lower prices at the pumps, he said.

“One of those factors is, we (have) tremendous domestic production,” Laskoski said. “The U.S. production of fuel this year is at the highest level we’ve seen since 1986. ... We’re getting oil and natural gas from many different parts of the country that years ago we were never accessing.”

There is too much fuel and too few economies with sufficient demand, Laskoski said.

While he predicts prices will go back up in early 2015, “they’ll be going up from a lower floor, but they won’t rise to the levels we’ve seen in the past.”

To contact writer Laura Corley, call 744-4382.