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Looking beyond the price of gasoline: Who calls the shots?

Published: May. 11, 2022 at 4:47 PM CDT|Updated: May. 11, 2022 at 4:50 PM CDT
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala, (WBRC) - The high gasoline prices keep hanging around like an unwanted guest. The average price per gallon right now in Alabama is $4.12, just four cents short of the all-time record back in mid-March, according to AAA. Now, the real question: who dictates these gas prices and why?

We all know high gasoline prices hurt, but we have to remember gasoline is no different than, say, lumber, steel or even food. It’s a global commodity.

You may recall when we when found Jimmy Elliott, a painter by trade and one trying to make ends meet like everybody else.

“I spend over $150 a week in gas,” Elliott said earlier this week.

You could hear the frustration and surprise of it all in his voice over what seems to be a never-ending rise in gasoline prices.

“It’s hard,” he said.

Clay Ingram says when you get down to the fundamental facts about gasoline as a world-traded commodity, it’s really not that complicated. First, the product is what it is, something to be sold to the public at large.

“We think the gasoline and the price of it is determined here in the United States but it’s not,” said Ingram, spokesman for AAA in Alabama.

And it’s not just one person or one company who dictates the price per gallon.

“The big gas and oil companies are trying their best to maximize their profits, so they want to charge the absolute highest price they can charge and still sell the same amount of gas,” he said.

And as far as why you’ll see a difference in gasoline prices in say one part of the state compared to another part of state, it’s part of the balancing-act in looking for that ‘sweet spot,’ the fine line between making a profit and what the market will bear.

“You got a mom and pop station owned by one or two stations here in town, then that family is setting those prices,” Ingram said.

The best advice to find the best price and save?

“There are no reasons to not participate in price shopping because it saves you money every single time, and be sure to combine your errands,” said Ingram

Jimmy Elliott has been around long enough to know what eventually goes up, must come down and gasoline prices are no exception.

“Either way you gotta keep on living,” he said.

Something else to keep in mind, according to AAA; you’ll find gasoline prices much higher in some foreign countries. such as those in Europe.

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