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Will Utah gas prices ever go down? Maybe? Possibly?

Posted at 5:48 PM, Sep 12, 2022

SALT LAKE CITY — As the summer travel season ends, gas prices on average have fallen far below the $5 a gallon spike Utah residents were seeing just a few weeks ago. But now Utahns are facing inconsistencies in the prices they pay at the pump.

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It's been a year of highs and lows at gas stations. Averages since January in the state were as low as $3.30 and all the way up to $5.27, leading to confusion among drivers and their wallets.

"Yeah, that can be confusing for drivers right, especially all of us who see the national average is going down, which it is the national average for gas continues to go down," said AAA spokesperson John Treanor.

The average price of gas in Utah is $4.28 a gallon, but the highs and the lows are wildly different. One station in Salina posts a price of just $3.65, while down in St. George, the high is $4.75.

Even driving down the street, the price of gas can be wildly different. So what is causing the inconsistency?

"The differences between utah counties could be said to be distribution and marketing," explained Tom Holst, energy analyst with the Kim C. Gardner Polict Institute.

What Holst means by distribution and marketing is things like promotion of brand-specific additives or marketing of the station itself. While that makes up a smaller portion of the cost of gas, he believes it is the quickest to cause fluctuations, especially in smaller stations

"Individual station owners have that higher flexibility," he said.

And while Utah produces a lot of its own gasoline, its output is dwarfed by the Gulf States.

"Our western states that get some or most or all of their gasoline from California, we're dealing with another issue right now and there's tight supply in California," said Treanor. "It's refinery turnover season, but there's also unplanned maintenance going on right now. Demand is outpacing supply, which means our prices are either staying stagnant like they are in Utah or going up."

But that hasn’t stopped summer travel according to AAA, says Treanor.

"We've had a robust travel season over the summer, which may be surprising because of the record high gas prices."

Seeing as all Utah drivers are affected by gas prices, what does the future hold?

The trend nationally is still down, with U.S. oil reserve releases and purchasing trends in the world changing. That will eventually force Utah prices down, but the truth is this year has been unpredictable.

"If we had a crystal ball and could see where gas was going to go, we'd be in a different business," said Treanor.