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October 22. 2012 9:31PM

NH gas prices keep dropping, but still break records

Gasoline prices are falling, but will have to keep on sliding to avoid continuing to set daily price records in New Hampshire.

“The statewide average of $3.74 dropped nine cents in the past week and 13 cents in the past month,” said Pat Moody, spokesman for AAA of Northern New England.

A drop in gasoline prices is welcome news to businesses and consumers alike.

“It would be tremendous,” said Gerry Mandelbaum, owner of Amoskeag Black Car Service in Manchester. “Put it this way — a 10 percent drop in gas prices would mean a driver would make an extra $25 to $30 a week.”

But prices are high enough that records continue to fall even as prices tumble. Gas prices typically decline after Labor Day, once the summer driving season ends and refineries begin churning out a less expensive, wintertime blend of fuel.

New Hampshire’s average price Monday was the highest it has ever been on Oct. 22. Today’s price was expected to be the highest for the date as well. It will take a steady drop to stop the streak of broken gas price records.

“We anticipate gas prices to continue to decline; we don’t really know where the bottom is,” Moody said. “But there is no indication that they should be going up.”

The highest price ever for gasoline in New Hampshire was during the run-up in prices around the time of Hurricane Katrina on July 16, 2008, when the average price of a gallon of regular no-lead hit $4.05, according to AAA’s Moody.

Gasoline prices on futures exchanges, a barometer of what is to come, continue to fall, with a drop of 1.81 percent Monday in prices for November delivery. The price has fallen nine percent since Oct. 1.

Prices at the pump typically don’t fall at the same time as wholesale prices, since retailers often set prices based on what they paid for the gasoline in their tanks.

New Hampshire prices continue to be lower than other New England states. Prices for regular unleaded gas elsewhere in the region are a nickel per gallon higher in Maine, seven cents higher in Massachusetts and more than 12 cents higher in Vermont.

State tourism officials said lower gas prices can only help.

“It’s one of the things people consider, so lower gas prices is an added incentive to get out and drive around,” said Tai Freligh communications manager for the state Division of Travel. “It can only be good for ski season, since we get a lot of people from out of state who come here to ski, so lower gas prices is an added incentive to come here and ski.”

Nationally, Californians are paying the most. Strict clean air laws require a special blend of gas not produced by all refineries. There are projections that gas could hit $5 a gallon there.

Regular grade gasoline sold in New Hampshire currently includes up to 10 percent ethanol, a fuel made from corn. Mandatory ethanol blending will end Nov. 13 unless the Obama administration extends the 2007 regulations requiring its use. Corn-producing states want an extension of the rules, which have driven prices higher, while meat-producing states would like the rule suspended to cut the price of livestock feed.

Some predictions suggest prices could drop by 50 cents per gallon in the near future.

“If it went down 30 cents, my drivers would be doing a jig in celebration,” Mandelbaum, the limo service operator, said.

billsmith@unionleader.com


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