CHARLESTON, W.Va. — From July to August, West Virginia drivers saw the second-highest drop in gasoline prices of any state, according to a report from AAA this week.
West Virginia’s fuel prices decreased by 19 cents from $3.69 a gallon in mid-July to $3.50 a gallon for regular unleaded gas in mid-August, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge report.
New Jersey gas prices dropped 20 cents per gallon, and Pennsylvania had the same 19-cent drop as West Virginia.
“We’re ending the summer travel period [and] that’s when gas prices are higher …. We typically see a decline [in price] this time every year because demand falls,” said AAA spokeswoman Cheryl Parker. “It is great news for West Virginia motorists.”
Jan Vineyard, president of the West Virginia Oil Marketers and Grocers Association, agreed.
“People aren’t driving quite as much and miles per gallon have improved on vehicles. We know that cars are more efficient now and getting more to the gallon.”
Vineyard said she was very happy to see AAA’s recent report.
“For a gasoline retailer, the lower the price, the happier we are, because when the prices are lower, people have more available funds to go inside [the convenience stores] and spend money …. When the customers are happy with the low gas price, we are happy too.”
Parker pointed out that many uncontrollable factors affect fuel prices daily, including geopolitical tensions in fuel-producing countries such as Russia, Ukraine and Iraq.
She warned that although the news is positive for West Virginia today, consumers should not take the current low prices for granted, as significant price shifts have been known to occur rapidly.
And although West Virginia motorists have felt an ease in gas prices, overall fuel prices in West Virginia remain 6 cents higher than the national average, which stands at $3.44 a gallon.
Over the past 12 months, West Virginia’s fuel prices have never dipped below the national average. In November 2013, fuel prices in West Virginia were more than 20 cents above the national average.
“Our tax is higher than the national average. The state tax on fuel in West Virginia is 35.7 cents [per gallon],” Vineyard said.
Vineyard said West Virginia experiences stiff competition from some neighboring states with lower fuel taxes. She noted that the state fuel tax in Virginia is 11.1 cents a gallon and it’s 28 cents in Ohio. Other bordering states’ taxes are: Kentucky, 30.8 cents a gallon; Maryland, 27 cents a gallon; and Pennsylvania, 40.7 cents a gallon.
West Virginia’s gas tax funds repairs to state highways and roads. West Virginia officials have said the state Road Fund would have to nearly double, from $1.1 billion to more than $2 billion, to fund all of the repairs and maintenance needed in the state.
As of Tuesday, consumers in Hawaii were paying the highest price per gallon at $4.30 a gallon. Alaska comes in second at $4.08. In the continental United States, Oregon and Washington state were the most expensive, at $3.89 a gallon.
Drivers in South Carolina enjoyed the lowest average cost for fuel at $3.15 a gallon, 29 cents lower than the national average.
Reach Anna Patrick at email@example.com or 304-348-5100.