Michael Brandy, Deseret News
Salesman Mike Anderson, refueling his Honda Accord at a Chevron station in Salt Lake, says he has no choice but to drive his car.

Gas prices in Utah are the third-highest in the United States today — only lower than prices in Alaska and Hawaii, according to AAA.

The average price of a gallon of regular unleaded today in Utah was $4.10. Utah's average price was the fourth-highest in the nation on Tuesday, but the average price in California dropped overnight to $4.09 per gallon, so Utah rose in the national rankings. The national average today is $3.79 per gallon.

The average price of a gallon of regular unleaded on Tuesday in Utah also was $4.10. Nationally, the average was $3.80. While gas prices in Utah and the rest of the country are dropping from mid-July's all-time highs, prices in Utah are dropping at a slower rate because of the Intermountain West's isolation from waterways and the grid of gasoline pipelines, said Rolayne Fairclough, spokeswoman for AAA Utah. Local stations also don't have a lot of competition from stations owned by oil giants such as BP PLC and Exxon Mobil Corp.

"We're very sparsely populated, and we don't have the competition," Fairclough said.

Utah drivers are not surprised that gas prices are among the highest in the nation. Randall Gaston, a Sandy resident, called local gas prices a "rip-off." He said he spends $60-$70 a week on gas.

"I hope it goes down," he said Tuesday as he filled up at a Chevron station in downtown Salt Lake City. "I think it will. If it doesn't, I'll start riding my bike more, I guess."

But Mike Anderson of West Jordan said he cannot cut back on driving. He needs his vehicle for his job in sales and fills up his car twice a week. He called local prices "a bunch of crap."

Paying more for gas "is something I just have to do," he said. "I'm not on a fixed income, so it's something I have to deal with. I feel sorry for people who are scraping by."

Lisa Jackson, a Roy resident who works in Salt Lake City, called the prices "crazy." It normally costs Jackson $45 to fill up her small car, and if she drives to work every day, she needs to fill up her tank about twice a week.

"I've been taking the train because it's disgusting," she said.

A gallon of gas Tuesday on average cost $4.62 in Alaska, $4.46 in Hawaii, and $4.11 in California — just a penny above Utah's average price, according to AAA.

On July 17, the national average price for a gallon of gas hit a record high of $4.11. Since then, the price has dropped 31 cents. Utah hit its record average price of $4.22 per gallon on July 18. But gas prices in Utah have only dropped 12 cents since then.

Beginning in the spring, gas prices nationwide rapidly climbed to record highs because of demand from developing economies such as China and India. However, demand from China may be slowing: New figures show it has purchased 7 percent less oil from the world market this year than last, Fairclough said.

In the United States, drivers are finding ways to save gas, and at the same time, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries has allowed production levels to remain constant in order to stabilize prices. This has led to an overall decrease in prices, Fairclough said.

In the past, a political event in an oil-producing country would have been reflected in the price of a barrel of oil. But times seem to be changing in the global economy.

"We've had the Iran nuclear threat, we've had the Georgian-Russian fighting," Fairclough said, and the price of oil continues to decrease.

The downward trend of oil prices, however, will not continue "if we don't keep being smart about how we're using our energy," Fairclough said. "Just because we've got a little decrease doesn't mean we should relax our efforts to conserve."