Prices at the pumps dropping for now

April 18, 2003 12:00 am

By ERIN MAYES

Gas prices are down, but it's anybody's guess if they'll stay that way.

"Normally, before the Memorial Day weekend, it does go up and usually after that it goes down, but it depends what the supply situation is," said David Polanco, owner of the Fuel Stop on Highway 108.

"I think the supply situation is really good. Unless there's a glitch in the system, prices should not go up. But you can never tell."

Prices for a gallon of unleaded gas around Sonora range from $2.01 to $2.06. Gas in Calaveras County is a little less. Nash Chevron on Main Street in Angels Camp is selling unleaded for $2 a gallon, and San Andreas' Gas Mart on St. Charles Street is at $1.94.

The average price for a gallon of unleaded gas in Northern California is $2.10, which is the same as last month, according to California State Automobile Association (AAA).

Last month's state-record high of $2.18 per gallon fell to $2.12 this month, due in part to a drop in the price of crude oil, which went from $40 a barrel in late February to $28, AAA reports.

Kashmir Thandi, owner of the Gas Mart in San Andreas, estimated the cost of gas has gone down as much as 20 cents since last month.

"You know, it's a surplus product," Thandi said, adding that suppliers often inflate the costs artificially, even when supplies are not low. "They just cause the prices, that's all they do."

Cashier Jeff Kitchell at the Nash Chevron in Angels Camp said customers have been glad to see lower costs.

"They love it, of course."

Kitchell said the ebbing war in Iraq and improved temperatures on the East Coast have contributed to more affordable gasoline.

California's oil refineries also have been producing more oil, resulting in lower prices.

But that doesn't mean summer prices won't skyrocket again, said AAA spokeswoman Jenny Mack. So far, the rise and fall in prices in March and April are following what Mack said is a yearly trend.