Price of fuel higher in Knox County
Camden — Drivers in the Belfast area are saving more than 10 cents a gallon at the pumps when compared to other Midcoast towns. Gas prices in Camden and Rockland were around $3.45 per gallon on July 5; in the Belfast area the cost of fuel was around $3.34.
The average cost of a gallon of regular gasoline in Maine is $3.41, said Gregg Laskoski, a senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy.com. Laskoski said the cost of fuel in Maine ranged from $3.26 to $3.79 a gallon Thursday, July 5. The lower prices were primarily in the Bangor area while the highest price was reported from a country store in the southern Maine town of Lebanon.
Laskoski said a marked fluctuation in price — even over a small regional area — isn't alarming.
"What we're seeing is not terribly uncommon," he said.
Laskoski said in metro area gasoline markets, prices can routinely differ as much as 60 cents per gallon from one gas station to another.
"In Boston alone we see the lowest price at $3.19...the highest is up to $3.91," he said.
Laskoski said local taxes play a significant roll in the pricing of gasoline, even between counties within the same state. He said high volume gas stations may receive better prices from wholesalers and their gas prices reflect those savings.
Maritime Farms locations in Searsport and Belmont reported prices of $3.34 per gallon for regular fuel while the company's locations in Rockport and Rockland were charging $3.45. Maritime Farms Sales Manager Chris Seavey said multiple factors dictate the variation in price across a small geographic region.
"There are so many factors involved," he said.
Seavey said a conventional gasoline terminal in Searsport services gas stations in the surrounding Waldo County towns.
"The haul cost is lower," he said.
Regulatory requirements for Knox and Lincoln counties require the sale of reformulated gasoline between May 1 and Sept. 15, Seavey said, adding reformulated gasoline is cleaner burning. Seavey said heavy tourist traffic in Knox and Lincoln counties during the summer months is partially responsible for the regulations, which he said are in place for emissions purposes and have been "for years."
The reformulated gasoline — also known as 7.8 gasoline — must be hauled from Portland to pumps in Knox County, Seavey said.
"[Reformulated gasoline] costs a nickel or more [per gallon] than conventional gasoline," Seavey said.
Gary Fowlie has owned Camden's Village Variety for 31 years. He said he believes reformulated gasoline is a better product — and he doesn't mind paying more for it. He said he believes the sale of reformulated gas should be a state-wide mandate during summer months so "no one is at a competitive disadvantage."
"I believe it's a better gasoline and it's better for the environment," Fowlie said.
He said transportation and product cost can add as much as 10 cents per gallon to wholesale fuel costs in summer months, in part because Village Variety is one of the furthest gas stations that receives delivery from the Portland terminal.
"If we can sell a product that's better for the environment why not sell it?" he said.
Seavey said other factors that determine price include timing of delivery — sometimes the price varies significantly from day-to-day. A store that receives a delivery when prices are low may be able to charge less at the pump than a competitor that paid a higher wholesale price for gasoline.
"I've got a screen right next to me rolling," he said, noting a computer program keeps him abreast of the cost of gasoline and related products constantly.
Seavey said old-fashioned competition is yet another factor in gasoline pricing. He said sometimes a store will charge less at the pump because they make their profit from value-added products in the mini-marts that have become common place in gas stations. Sometimes one store dropping prices can cause a domino effect at nearby stations.
"You have to be competitive in the market," he said. "If we make 10-cents a gallon we're doing pretty well. It's not easy."
Courier Publications reporter Jenna Lookner can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org