Monday, October 16th, 2006
By Shelley Grieshop
Finally below $2 in Celina
  In an effort to stay competitive, gasoline station operators in Celina say they've dropped their price per gallon below $2.
Across the city this morning, $1.99 was the going rate at the pumps, even though gasoline stations in many local communities advertised an average of $2.10 per gallon of regular gasoline. The recent drop in Celina is the first time prices have decreased below the $2 mark since the spring of 2005.    
Alan Simon, manager of Docksider Marathon on Main Street, says the $1.99 he has posted this morning doesn't reflect his shipment costs. He's losing money on gasoline just to stay in line with his competition.
"I'd like to know how they're doing it," he says of other area stations who keep lowering prices.
Simon says if he loses gasoline sales, he loses out on sales of food, lottery tickets and other items inside the business.
"And that hurts," he says, adding that's where he makes his money.
Statewide averages held at $2.12 this morning for a gallon of regular gasoline; the national average was $2.22. One year ago, prices were on their way to $3 per gallon during a wicked hurricane season that damaged pipelines in the south and disrupted the flow of gasoline to the north.
Terry Fleming of the Ohio Petroleum Counsel, says Wal-Mart Supercenters and a cluster of gasoline stations within a close proximity, usually spells good news for motorists, bad news for gasoline stations.
"It's all based on pure competition, and some businesses just can't keep up after a while," he says.
Last year, following the summer driving season, prices climbed because of the severe hurricane season, Fleming adds.
Several of the gasoline station operators throughout the Grand Lake area said their prices likely will drop further later on today after they get a new shipment. Recent prices quoted by distributors to area gasoline station owners appear to be falling, says Rex Bragg, owner of Motor Inn Citgo in Mercer.
"I'm definitely going to $2.05 when my shipment arrives this morning," said Bragg, who had a posted price of $2.15 earlier today.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the winter outlook on the price of gasoline, natural gas and other heating fuels looks good. Residential heating fuel prices for most Americans are projected to be either lower than or close to the same price as last year, the EIA states in its October 2006 outlook.
In the Midwest, where about 79 percent of households rely on natural gas to heat their homes, residents can expect to pay nearly 14 percent less compared to last winter, EIA reported. Heating oil is expected to climb 6 percent, however, only about 3 percent of households use that type of heat in the Midwest, EIA stated.
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