Gas noticeably higher locally, but how come?

As gasoline prices inched toward $3 a gallon this spring, motorists were keeping an eye on the trajectory to determine their summer travel plans. But their fears of skyrocketing prices have been cast aside, as prices at the pump have either inched slowly upward and, more recently begun to slip downward.

In fact, according to the website GasBuddy.com, gas prices in almost all states have fallen back as the national average is now at its lowest in 75 days.

The skinny, according to analysts with GasBuiddy.com, is this” “With Libya resuming oil exports, oil prices have been under pressure the last two weeks, falling briefly under $68 per barrel last week, closing out the week far lower than two weeks ago when oil prices touched $75. In addition, signs are pointing to greater oil production from both Russia and Saudi Arabia, further tempering fears of too little supply. It has been the large drop in the price of crude oil that has opened the door for gasoline and diesel prices to move lower for the time being. More good news? Retail gas prices still have some downward movement coming to catch up to the recent drop in oil.”

While that may be good news on the big picture side, at least one of our alert readers recently wrote in wondering about the gasoline prices in Scotland County — specifically why they are continually higher that those in the region.

A worthy question.

The letter-writer gave examples of gas costs from areas like Fayetteville ($2.55), Aberdeen ($2.69), Sanford ($2.57), Hamlet ($2.73) and Cheraw, S.C. ($2.49). We will cast aside the South Carolina example, since their gas tax is well below that in North Carolina — and their infrastructure has suffered for it over the years.

The inference made by the writer was that Scotland County gasoline prices were much higher because, in his words, “one local company owns 80 to 90 percent of the stations in the city/county.” While we agree that a monopoly does tend to increase the price of any services, there is just no way to point a finger and prove that’s what is happening.

So we have done a little research and found that Scotland County is, in fact, the highest in the region.

On Monday, the average unleaded gasoline cost in North Carolina was $2.644 per gallon — about 13 cents higher than South Carolina, 5 cents more than Tennessee and 2 cents higher than Virginia.

In a breakdown of counties, Scotland’s average price for unleaded on Monday was $2.789 — which is above those in Richmond ($2.749), Robeson ($2.747), Columbus ($2.727), Anson ($2.710), Montgomery ($2.692), Moore ($2.617), Hoke ($2.616), Bladen ($2.599) and Cumberland ($2.592).

While we fully expect gasoline prices will slowly creep down leading up to the annu8al Labor Day holiday surge, like our letter-writer we remain stumped on why Scotland County costs are a good deal higher than our surrounding counties.

If someone can shed light on that conundrum, we’ll await the answer and pass it along.