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Even with lower gas prices, some San Juan County drivers pass on Labor Day travel

James Fenton The Daily Times
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Despite national gas prices at a 10-year low this Labor Day weekend, some Farmington drivers say they plan to stay home or work during the Monday holiday.

Many drivers in the U.S. will pay the lowest gas prices for Labor Day weekend since 2004, according to Michael Green, AAA spokesman.

"The national average price for regular unleaded gasoline has fallen for 14 consecutive days for a total of 20 cents per gallon," Green said in a statement on Monday. "Drivers nationwide continue to benefit from the relatively low price of crude oil with today's average about 96 cents per gallon less than a year ago."

That U.S. average came in at $2.47 per gallon, a savings of 12 cents per gallon compared to one week ago and 18 cents per gallon versus one month ago, Green said.

As Labor Day weekend approaches, Farmington drivers are paying $2.77, the average price for a gallon of regular gas in San Juan County.

Will Speer, senior petroleum analyst who covers Western states, including New Mexico, for GasBuddy.com in Houston, said area drivers are enjoying prices nearly a dollar lower than Labor Day last year.

"People in Farmington are paying 72 cents less than this time last year, so that's going to encourage or entice people to hit the road rather than flying somewhere, since airline fuel prices are hedged," Speer said in a phone interview on Tuesday.

Gas prices, which reached an area high of about $2.80 in July, the height of the summer travel season when demand peaks, are expected to continue to steadily drop, Speer said.

On Sept. 16, gas stations will switch from summer gas to winter gas, which Speer said is a cheaper gasoline blend that will add to drivers' savings at the pump.

On Tuesday, the price of regular unleaded at Smith's Food and Drug at the corner of 20th Street and Butler Avenue was $2.52 compared to an average price of about $2.80 at gas stations nationally.

"I still think you're going to see continuing declines (this year)," Speer said. "There's still savings to be had in the gas markets. Labor Day is close to the timing of the switch to winter blend gas. It's the last big weekend for demand to use that summer grade gasoline, which arrives May 1 each year."

The news of lower prices at the pump was hardly noticed by Carlos Chavez as he filled up with his mother and daughter at Smith's on Tuesday.

Born and raised in Farmington, Chavez was laid off from his job as an oil field rig hauler in July and said he was hoping to find a new job in the area.

"Its gotten bad, finding work in the oil field," Chavez said. "I tried to get my daughter down to Albuquerque to the zoo, but that was shot down when I was laid off. But now I'll be driving far, like Odessa, Texas, just to look for work."

Flora Vista resident Jessica Lucero was filling up her new midsize SUV at Smith's, her choice of stations in the area for the savings, she said.

Lucero said any travel plans this weekend were nixed when her husband, a San Juan County patrol officer, was scheduled to work during the holiday weekend.

"We're always scheduling things around (his schedule)," she said. "I do notice a difference with gas prices, but that's since I got my new car in May."

Susan Johnson filled up her mother-in-law's Subaru Forester at Smith's, which she said was the cheapest gas she has found in the Four Corners area. Johnson lives in Bayfield, Colo., and said she and her husband come down to Farmington once a week to check on their parents who live here. She said she and her husband had no travel plans for Labor Day.

"Honestly, my husband and I have never really planned trips around depending on the price of gas," she said. "It's more like when we have time off. Of course, it's always nice when the gas is cheaper."

James Fenton is the business editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4621 and jfenton@daily-times.com. Follow him @fentondt on Twitter.