Gasoline prices have dropped by 20 cents a gallon since the first of the year to an average $1.02 per gallon on Friday for unleaded regular in Salt Lake County.

When will it drop below a dollar?"Who knows, but I'm not excited about it," said Paul Ashton, a service station owner in Provo and president of the Utah Petroleum Retailers Organization.

But motorists probably feel just the opposite, after paying some of the highest prices in seven years last September.

"I'm just glad I don't have to pay as much as I did for premium. It was costing me $35 to fill up my Montero," said local attorney Willy Gibbs.

Ashton said it wouldn't be unrealistic to expect the price to drop below a dollar per gallon soon because of the glut of petroleum on the market and traders wanting to sell before oil prices drop any further.

If it weren't for a 5-cent increase in federal gasoline tax implemented last December, pump prices along the Wasatch Front would be below a dollar.

But even without the tax, motorists in St. George, where regular unleaded sells for about $1.23 a gallon, don't hold out much hope for pump prices falling below a dollar anytime soon.

"It will never get that low around here," said Ben Guerin, who rallied local residents against gasoline retailers last year.

Petitions and picketing by the group called STOP, Geurin said, resulted in service stations in St. George lowering their prices to equal those in surrounding southern Utah communities.

But the Middle East crisis gave retailers a reason to raise prices again, and they haven't dropped, Geurin said.

He doesn't think his group will launch another protest against the high prices. "We've about run out of gas ourselves. We tried to request a grand jury investigation but couldn't raise the legal funds," Geurin said.

The reason for the large difference between pump prices in St. George and the Wasatch Front is the wholesale and shipping cost, said Bruce Anderson, owner of Dixie Land Chevron.

He said most St. George service stations purchase a more expensive, higher-grade fuel from Southern California, which is piped to Las Vegas then trucked about 130 miles to southern Utah. Refined fuel from Southern California is more expensive because it has a higher octane level than gasoline refined in North Salt Lake, Anderson said.

The difference in wholesale costs, Anderson said, for a St. George service station owner can be 25 cents a gallon more than for a Salt Lake operator.

But Geurin doesn't buy those explanations. He said operators in Cedar City 50 miles north purchase the same fuel and usually sell it for 5 cents a gallon less than St. George.

"People just get used to the high prices (here). We feel helpless," he said.


(Additional information)

Gas prices

Here's a sampling of prices for regular unleaded gas in Salt Lake and Utah counties as of Friday morning.

Salt lake County

Location Price

309 E. 400 South 1.019

1689 S. 900 East 1.019

2100 S. 1300 East 1.039

2287 E. 300 South 1.019

7210 W. 3500 South 1.039

4504 S. 900 East 1.019

1851 E. Murray-Holladay Rd. 1.019

6990 S. Redwood Rd. 1.019

4800 W. 6200 South 1.039

10412 S. Redwood Rd. 1.029

Davis County

1481 N. U.S. -89, Laytojn 1.019

130 N. Fairfield, Layton 1.039

180 N. Main, Kaysville 1.039

1350 S. Main, Kaysville 1.019

2084 S. Orchard Dr., Btfl. 1.039

Salt Lake County Average Price last week: 1.057.

Salt Lake County Average Price this week: 1.026

Davis County Average price last week: 1.059

Davis County Average price this week: 1.031