The rapidly falling gasoline prices in the South Sound on Monday dropped below the national average for the first time in five years.
Thats quite an achievement considering that Washington has one of the highest gasoline taxes in the country and that the regions refineries have no pipeline connections to Midwest and Gulf Coast refineries.
In Olympia, the Arco station at 7291 Martin Way E. was the lowest price retailer with gas available for $3.29 a gallon.
According to The News Tribunes Gas Deal Finder, the average price in the Tacoma area for a gallon of unleaded regular was $3.437 late Monday afternoon.
That price is nearly 66 cents less than the average price just a month ago.
The national average price Monday was $3.469.
Credit the relative cheapness of local gas to two facts, say energy experts. The wellhead price of crude in the upper Midwest has fallen steeply because of high production, and the storm-caused shortage of gasoline along the East Coast has raised prices there, affecting the national average.
Tim Hamilton, executive director of the Automotive United Trades Organization, said the glut of oil is forcing prices downward. AUTO is a Northwest service station owners organization.
Thats a good thing for his members, he said, because it allows them to keep their margins up while still providing relative bargain prices for consumers.
Hamilton said he thinks local prices now are close to bottoming out.
Some distributors, he said, have already begun modest price increases.
The higher East Coast prices are keeping national averages from declining as rapidly as those locally.
In New York, for instance, the average price of a gallon of gas is $3.967, the third-highest in the country after Hawaii and Alaska.
Washingtons average, $3.568 a gallon, ranks it 17th on the list of state averages from high to low. In recent months, Washington has usually been among the top five or six.
South Sound prices are lower than the state average in part because of continuing local gas wars in Bonney Lake and Lakewood.
Price leader Fred Meyer was selling gas at its Bonney Lake store for $3.19 a gallon Monday. Thats eight cents lower than it was at that station just 10 days ago. Arco in Bonney Lake was selling gas for $3.22 a gallon. The Bonney Lake Safeway was just a cent higher.
In Lakewood, Arco was the lowest with a $3.22 price. A 76 station in the same neighborhood was selling gas for $3.23 a gallon.
John Gillie: 253-597-8663