What did you pay for gas the last time you filled up? I recall every news story on TV in the summer of 2008 was about the price at the pump. That’s when we were in the throes of a barrel of oil hitting $147 and the national average at the pump topping out at $4.11 a gallon. This time, however, I’m not seeing as much coverage because prices aren’t quite as extreme.
The price of gas this time around is really an unusual phenomenon. If you look at supplies of oil and gasoline in North America, we have a pretty hefty amount. Plus, there’s a huge amount of oil being developed out of shale in the Canadian Rockies. So there’s no shortage to speak of, which is different than the last time prices ran up.
So what’s going on? Well, we as a country don’t count as much in the whole international equation with oil. Emerging economies in the Third World are what drive oil demand today. Now that our nation’s historical control of the supply and demand equation is out of synch, what can you do to get some control back?
First, don’t waste money on premium gas. Few vehicles actually need it — even if the owner’s manual says so. Know that if premium gas is recommended, it’s for reasons of horsepower usually; your vehicle will run fine on regular unleaded and you’ll save 20 or 30 cents a gallon.
Second, consider buying gas anywhere other than at the major oil company filling stations. We’ve had a slow, steady generational shift away from buying gas at these pumps. Americans are increasingly buying more gas from independent convenience store chains, the warehouse clubs, Wal-Mart and the major supermarket chains. Speaking of the latter, Kroger recently opened its 1,000th gas station. Any of these alternative channels will usually save you 5 to 15 cents a gallon.
The most common comeback I hear is, “Well, won’t off-brand gas hurt my car?” No. Gas is gas. At a time when the price is going up and up, isn’t it nice to be able to keep the amount you pay as low as you can?