Perplexing prices at the pump

Cortez gas prices dip below $3; close gap with Durango

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Gas prices around Cortez have dipped below the $3 mark. Enlargephoto

Cortez Journal Photo

Gas prices around Cortez have dipped below the $3 mark.

Gas prices continued to edge downward in Montezuma County this week. As of Friday afternoon, regular unleaded at the local Shell, Giant, City Market and two Conoco stations was selling for $2.99 per gallon, almost a 60-cent drop from late November. At the Maverick Country Store on Highway 491, it went for $2.97.

In fact, this week marked the rare occasion where Cortez area stations were cheaper than their La Plata County counterparts. Motorists filling up at Durango's Peerless Tyre Co. - the perennial stop for thrifty gas shoppers there - paid $3.02 for regular Thursday. Although the bragging rights didn't last. Peerless dropped to $2.93 Friday.

As recently as Thanksgiving, Cortez residents were paying at least 25 cents more per gallon than Durangoans.

Local gas station managers interviewed seemed perplexed about the reversal of fortune. Steve Green, public relations manager for AAA, said he had no "handy explanation" for the anomaly.

"Normally Cortez is more expensive (than its neighbors) because it is off the beaten path from refineries and pipelines. This is just one of those moments," he said.

The price of gasoline is always in flux, but generally follows a predictable rhythm, Green added. After spikes in March/April and August/September, they start to fall as the travel season winds down - suppressing demand - and refineries switch to cold-weather fuel blends. Manufacturing costs for winter blends are cheaper because they don't require the same additives, and the savings get passed along to consumers.

In the grand scheme, Coloradans have little to complain about. The state is currently one of only three - with Utah and Wyoming - to dip below $3 for an average gallon of regular unleaded. Hawaiians paid a full dollar more per gallon. Of the lower 48, Connecticut topped the chart at $3.69.