Farmington drivers see relief at pump even as gas prices jump across U.S., New Mexico

Local prices remain highest in the state, but they have declined in April

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Motorists in the Farmington area — who consistently have paid the state's highest prices for gasoline since the cost began increasing a year and a half ago — experienced continued relief at the pump this week while most other New Mexicans saw prices jump.

According to the weekly AAA New Mexico Weekend Gas Watch issued April 21, the statewide average for a gallon of regular unleaded gas increased 8 cents to $4.11 from April 14. But in the Farmington market, which still has the highest prices in the state, the average price fell from $4.36 last week to $4.33 this week.

That continues a recent trend of slightly cheaper prices locally. The Farmington market hit its peak on April 7 when it posed a record average high of $4.44 a gallon. The average fell to $4.36 on April 14 and has continued to decline since then.

It doesn't take much shopping to find even lower prices than that $4.33 average in Farmington. While local prices have tended to be almost uniform for the past several years, with little variation from one station to the next, many stations in the area are posting prices below that $4.33 mark, with several at $4.25.

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Even though the average price of gasoline increased in New Mexico this week, it continued declining in the Farmington area, according to AAA Texas/New Mexico.

But Farmington-area drivers might be well advised to enjoy those lower prices while they can, as indications are that prices across the country are headed up again. The price of crude oil, which had dipped to less than $100 a barrel after surging in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, climbed past that benchmark again this week.

And AAA officials say gasoline demand — which has risen only incrementally over the past four weeks — could see a significant increase soon with the expected onset of the summer driving season, when demand traditionally peaks.

"It's hinting at a strong summer season for driving," said Joshua Zuber, a public affairs specialist for AAA Texas/New Mexico. "Bookings for Memorial Day travel are up pretty significantly from this time last year. Folks are beginning to get out of school and are eyeing summer vacations. It looks to be a pretty strong summer."

The average price of gas in the Farmington area was $4.33 a gallon this week for regular unleaded, but many stations were selling it for below that mark.

Zuber noted that the emergence of so many factors over the past several months — the easing of restrictions over the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the release of oil supplies from many countries' strategic petroleum reserves — have led to the volatility in prices.

"It's certainly been an unusual market for oil and gas," he said.

Zuber cited figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration that showed daily gasoline demand in the United States has gone from 8.5 million barrels a day on March 25 to 8.6 million on April 1, 8.7 million on April 8 and 8.9 million on April 15.

But the higher prices Americans are paying appear to be having an impact on consumption. One year ago, consumption was at 9.1 million barrels a day in the middle of April. And consumption fell sharply from late December 2021 when it was at approximately 9.4 million to late January when it tumbled to 8.2 million.

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Higher gas prices are likely on the horizon in the months ahead as the summer driving season begins, AAA officials say.

Gas prices across New Mexico are close to the national average of $4.12 a gallon. Albuquerque drivers were paying the least on April 21 at $4.04, while Santa Fe was at $4.11 and Las Cruces was at $4.13.

Nationwide, California drivers are paying the most for gasoline at an average of $5.69 a gallon, followed by Hawaii at $5.24 and Nevada at $5.08. Drivers in Georgia are paying the least at $3.72 a gallon, followed by Arkansas at $3.74, and Missouri and Ohio at $3.76.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e.