What goes up finally comes down

Published 5:00 am Monday, October 13, 2008

It’s a business devoted to thick rubber, thin gasoline andgreasy fingernails, but Highway 84 Chevron President Neal Bozemanis no grease monkey.

While cars and trucks come and go throughout the day, Bozemankeeps one eye on the business and the other on the nationaleconomy, checking the prices of stock on sources likeFuturescrudeoil.com, Bloomberg and CNN to see exactly why thecountry is enjoying a considerable drop in gasoline prices thisweek.

“Now, with the economy softening, the [oil] speculators don’tbelieve demand is going to hold on crude and they’re starting tobail out and put their money somewhere else,” he said while takinga peek at Bloomberg.com.

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As talks of banking bailouts and recession have dominatedeconomic news this week, the price of crude oil has been sinkinglike a stone, resulting in the one bright spot of the nation’sunsure economy – cheap gasoline.


“It’s been falling – we’ve been changing prices every day,”Bozeman said.

Bozeman said the price of regular unleaded gasoline at 84Chevron has fallen from approximately $3.50 per gallon last week to$2.99 as of late Saturday afternoon – a drop of more than 50 centsper gallon.

Other gas stations around town have dropped prices as well.Common prices seen up and down Brookway Boulevard Saturday includeprices just under the $3 mark.

Highway 84 Chevron’s price has fallen by as much 10 cents perday at various times throughout the week. The decline has beencaused by continually falling crude oil prices, which are directlyrelated to the unstable stock market.

According to Marketwatch.com, Chevron Corp.’s stock closedFriday at $57.83 per share – down $5.40 on the day and far belowthe May 21 high of $104.63.

Exxon Mobile Corp. also slid Friday – falling $5.64 to $62.36per share. The corporation’s high point, recorded on May 21, was$96.12.

Bad news for Wall Street, great news for Lincoln Countyresidents whose wallets suffer making the 20-mile roundtrip intotown from Bogue Chitto every day.

“Right now, if you’re someone with a lot of money invested inthe stock market, you’re hurting,” Bozeman said. “But if you don’thave money in the stock market, you’re enjoying this rightnow.”

Bozeman pointed out that gasoline was hovering at and above the$4 per gallon mark as recently as July. With fuel prices expectedto continue dropping, he said some stations selling unbranded fuelmight dip below $3 per gallon in the next few days – a drop of $1per gallon since the expensive days of mid-summer.

“People should have a little extra money to spend somewhereelse,” Bozeman said. “If they go and spend it locally, that’s onemore dollar that people weren’t making before.”

Those extra dollars aren’t emanating from only 84 Chevron.

Mike Becker, owner of Brookhaven’s two Cracker Barrel stations,said the price of fuel at his establishments had declined to from$3.25 Thursday to $3.11 Friday afternoon, and he expects moredecreases over the weekend.

“We have come down twice [Friday], and it looks like we’reprobably going to come down again [Saturday] or Monday,” he said.”Some people are predicting it will be below $3 per gallon byThanksgiving. Some non-branded places are now.”

Becker agreed with Bozeman that dropping stock prices are thecatalyst behind the decreases in fuel prices, but he added thatimproved supply capabilities are also helping out.

Damage incurred to gasoline infrastructure stretching fromLouisiana into Mississippi during Hurricane Gustav in earlySeptember had caused Becker’s and other stations to be put onallocation, limiting the amount of fuel available for purchase.

The allocation for gasoline and diesel fuel has recently beenraised, Becker said, though shortages in the supply of diesel fuelstill exist.

Gasoline, however, is flowing at the pumps at the cheapest pricein months, and Lincoln County residents are rejoicing – andparticipating.

“We’ve been very busy – people have been out to the road!” saidHandy Mart’s LeKesha Brown. “It’s always busy on Friday, but todayhas been extremely busy.”

Brown said fuel prices at the Piggly-Wiggly station dropped 5cents at 2 p.m. Friday, and plenty of motorists were coming by tothe sample the cheapened stuff.

“I think it’s wonderful, cause I go a lot,” said TrustmarkBank’s Charlene Applewhite as she filled up her car. “I don’t livein town, I live in the country – out past Loyd Star. I drive 30miles every day, five days a week, and on Saturday I come back tobuy groceries.”

Applewhite said she usually spends between $60 and $80 per weekon gas, and the gas price decline will definitely help her weeklybudget.

Custom Seed Producers employee Joe Butler is also glad to seegas prices tumbling. Butler, who drives to Brookhaven every dayfrom the other side of Wesson, said he also logs at least 30 milesper day, usually more when all the stopping and going is done.

“It feels good,” Butler said after gassing up his Dodge pickup.”I guess they’ll let us drive a little more now.”

Butler said he has been spending more than $100 per week fuelingup his truck, which has caused him to modify his routes.

“We’ve been trying to do everything in one trip,” he said. “Alot less going.”

Butler said he hopes falling gas prices will cut his weekly fuelexpenditures back to around $60 per week.

“Everybody’s been having to watch it,” he said. “This makes usfeel a lot better.”

Even those who have not had to contend with fuel budgets aresetting up to benefit from the cheaper gasoline.

Brookhaven’s Swayze Black, an 18-year-old freshman basketballplayer at Louisiana State University, said she has not yet takenher car with her to college, but the cheaper gasoline will help hersubsist at college when she drives it down to Baton Rogue nextsemester.

“I think it’s good – I think it should keep going down,” shesaid. “It’s something you have to think about.”