- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 19, 2006

THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Paco Cosio-Marron still feels the pinch when filling up his gas tank, but he can’t complain with pump prices down 50 cents in the past month.

He was more than happy to fill up for $2.39 a gallon at a College Park Shell station yesterday afternoon after a summer of prices in the $3 range and hopes now he won’t have to cut back as much on the things he enjoys.

“There is no doubt I didn’t go out half as much during the summer” because of gas prices, said Mr. Cosio-Marron, a Potomac resident.

Average prices for regular unleaded gas have plummeted after reaching $3.14 in the District a month ago, and they could drop further in the coming weeks if the market remains stable, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic auto club.

On Monday afternoon at West Side Exxon on Chain Bridge Road in Vienna, Va., manager Paul Singh lowered the price of self-serve regular from $2.49 to $2.35 per gallon, a 5.6 percent drop.

The lowest prices in the area were in Gainesville, Va., where dueling gas stations on a section of Lee Highway knocked prices down to as low as $1.97 a gallon over the weekend.

Regular unleaded averaged $2.49 a gallon nationwide yesterdayand $2.52 in the Washington area.

“I think it may drop another 12 cents next week,” said John Townsend, a spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “It could drop to as low as $2 by Thanksgiving.”

Mr.Townsend credited the end of the summer travel season and decreasing tensions in the Middle East with the falling prices.

Although Americans traveled an average of 8.6 billion miles a day during the summer, many did cut back because of the high prices, he said.

“They did start to make some adjustments,” he said. “They took shorter trips.”

Prices should start rising again by the spring, he said.

The drop in fuel costs has been a relief to many whose livelihoods depend on their vehicles after suffering through an expensive summer.

“I’m an independent contractor, so it’s huge for me,” said Larry Glaser of Fairfax Station as he filled up his truck in Springfield.

Mr.Glaser looked to cut costs in just about every other area of his life during the summer because he couldn’t stop driving as much.

“You become sensitive to everything,” he said.

Lower prices provided some relief to gas-station managers, who make only a small profit from gas. The price drop means more customers will buy more profitable items in the convenience store or use other services.

“You get more people coming in to get gas, and some of those people come in to get snacks,” said Rollakanti Moses, who manages a College Park Shell station.

His convenience store and garage account for about 70 percent of his income.

Mohammad Mushtaq, a cabdriver for the past 17 years, remembers when gas cost 87 cents a gallon. He doesn’t think prices will stay down long.

“One month it goes down, the next it goes up,” he said. “Most people are saying after a couple months it’ll go up.”

When asked whether he was concerned about prices rising again, Larry Jones of Silver Spring could only shrug as he filled up in College Park.

“We don’t have any control over it,” he said. “That’s the bad part of it. We can only be happy it’s this low now.”

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