Despite declining prices elsewhere, Farmington drivers see little relief at gas pump

Average local price has remained stuck at $3.57 a gallon since Dec. 2

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • As it has for nearly every week over the last year, Farmington had the highest gas prices in the state over the last week.
  • The New Mexico average for Dec. 28 was $3.21 a gallon — 4 cents less than the previous week's average of $3.25.
  • The U.S. average has gone from $3.38 on Dec. 2 to $3.28 on Dec. 28.

FARMINGTON — A long-awaited decline in gasoline prices has materialized over much of the U.S. and New Mexico over the past month, with decreased demand and greater supply leading to reductions of 10 to 15 cents a gallon in December.

But, according to figures provided by the weekly AAA New Mexico Weekend Gas Watch, Farmington drivers have been left out in the cold.

Gas prices in Farmington have barely budged since Dec. 1, when the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded fuel was $3.58. As of Dec. 28, that price had dropped only to $3.57.

As it has for nearly every week over the last year, Farmington had the highest gas prices in the state over the last week. The New Mexico average for Dec. 28 was $3.21 a gallon — 4 cents less than the previous week's average of $3.25. The U.S. average has gone from $3.38 on Dec. 2 to $3.28 on Dec. 28.

The state's other three metropolitan statistical areas — Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Los Cruces — all posted average prices well below that of Farmington.

Albuquerque was the lowest at $3.07, while Santa Fe was next at $3.24 and Las Cruces was third at $3.34. Santa Fe and Las Cruces saw reductions of 3 cents a gallon from the previous week's price, while the price in Albuquerque fell 5 cents a gallon.

There has been no such movement in the Farmington market, where the price hasn't changed since the Dec. 2 decline of 1 cent.

Despite a decrease in gas prices across the country and much of New Mexico, drivers in Farmington are continuing to pay virtually the same price they were at the start of December.

Joshua Zuber, a public affairs specialist for AAA Texas/New Mexico, said gas prices can vary widely from market to market, with oil market volatility and changes in demand contributing to those differences. While those factors seem to have turned in favor of consumers in other markets in December, Zuber said a quick look at the situation in Farmington would lead him to conclude they have had only a negligible effect on the Four Corners area.

"Things seem to be relatively stable and unchanged," she said.

Zuber said the price drivers pay at the pump is influenced by supply and demand, the price of crude oil, competition and the proximity of a given market to a gas refining complex.

Farmington's lengthy distance from a refining complex traditionally has meant higher gas prices here, with local drivers usually paying more than their counterparts across the state.

But the price difference between Farmington and other parts of New Mexico in December has grown substantially. On Dec. 2, the average price in Las Cruces was $3.49, while Santa Fe was $3.35 and Albuquerque was $3.26. The current gaps between those prices and the cost of gas in Farmington has more than doubled in some cases over the last four weeks.

Many market analysts projected a continued decrease in gas prices in early 2022, as they expected demand to fall as winter weather sets in and the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 leads people to get out less.

Zuber said that continues to be the expectation, but he noted there was a slight increase in demand for the week ending Dec. 24, not uncommon for that time period, when a lot of folks travel for the holidays. Demand was at 9 million barrels a day on Dec. 17, but it increased to more than 9.7 million barrels on Dec. 24.

Demand for gasoline is expected to continue to decline as winter sets in and people drive less, but other factors could help keep prices high, a AAA Texas/New Mexico spokesman says.

He said the rapid spread of Omicron could help drive down prices, much as the original strain of COVID-19 kept people at home for months and reduced demand, leading to a sharp reduction in gas prices.

But the emergence of another factor could negate that situation, Zuber said. He cited a recent fire that broke out at the Exxon Mobil Corporation refinery in Baytown, Texas, which he described as one of the largest refining and petrochemical facilities in the United States.

Zuber said the amount of damage that was done to the refinery is still being assessed.

"It's operating at reduced capacity," he said. "But it could have an impact on gas prices over the next few days."

If that damage turns out to be minimal, it won't have much of an effect on prices, he said.

"But if it's a longer-term situation, yeah, we could see prices increase," he said.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.