Are Gas Prices Really Dropping?

You’ve heard the rumors. Gas prices appear to be on the way down. It’s hard to come to that conclusion when you’re still paying more than $3.50 per gallon and fondly remembering all those misspent $1.50 gallons of your youth.

But it’s true. Gas prices are indeed heading downward ever so slowly. The buck-fifty days are gone forever unless you have a VW that can run on vegetable oil. But CNN recently reported that a survey of credit card use at pumps around the nation revealed an 8 day slide in gas prices. The current average is $3.65. New Jersey had the cheapest prices at $3.43.

The easing of pain at the pump is mainly because crude oil prices have dropped significantly over the past month. Now analysts are talking about when they will hit $100 per barrel instead of when they will rise above $150. The reason for the drop? Worries about a lack of demand and the relatively calm hurricane season. So if you are looking to hit the road this fall, you might be spared from the $4 per gallon price tag.

Gas pump woes: More than just the price

I just read in this New York Times article that the increasing gas prices in the United States are creating problems at some gas pumps–actually all gas pumps. It’s not because people are throwing themselves on the hood of their cars weeping as the total bill climbs.

I just had a flash of a movie scene. Ben Stiller in the persona of his Something About Mary character–the high school prom guy, cleaning the windshield of his car, weeping–his tears are falling in streams, mixing in with the cleaning solution from the gas station squeegee. Those weird serenaders are in the background singing a gas pump price tag lament.

No, this is not what is happening at the pump. What is happening is that some pumps have pump computers too old to handle the $4 plus a gallon amount. They are stuck at $3.99. As a temporary solution until the new computers arrive, gas station owners are charging half the dollar amount at the pump and doubling the total at the cash register. They have official permission to do so, (There is an application process.) I bet that’s a psychological jolt when someone goes to pay. If you happen to come across an old gas station pump in your travels, this is one situation you might come across.

Another interesting point the article makes is that the modern, computerized machines are breaking down more often because of the speed the pump’s mechanism needs to turn to get higher and higher numbers. The higher the numbers, the faster the numbers turn, so the faster there is a breakdown. This is my understanding.

What is the limit of the new pump computers you may wonder? Just how pricey could gas get if one uses them to project ahead? $9.99. This is like Y-2K, but this time there is a problem. It will take about five months for all the pumps to be updated because of the back log with filling orders.