By the numbers
Prices of a gallon of unleaded gasoline Friday
National average: $3.68
One month ago: $3.79
One year ago: $2.81
Highest state average: Alaska, $4.39
Lowest state average: New Jersey, $3.40
Colorado Springs: $3.60
Glenwood Springs: $4.09
Grand Junction: $3.79
Steamboat Springs: $4.01
Source: AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report, www.fuelgaugerepo...
Steamboat Springs Officials in the local gasoline industry attribute Steamboat Springs' higher fuel prices to the increasing cost of doing business.
The average price for a gallon of unleaded gas in Steamboat was $4.01 on Friday morning, down from $4.06 on Sunday. The average for Colorado was $3.72, and the national average was $3.68.
Jon Peddie, who owns the Sinclair station on U.S. Highway 40 at Hilltop Parkway, said fuel costs reflect what station owners pay. In addition to the gasoline itself, higher credit card fees and transportation costs affect prices, Peddie said.
Those add up in an industry where profit margins sometimes amount to pennies on the gallon, he said.
"So if your average credit card transaction costs you 2 percent, at $4 gas, that's 8 cents," Peddie said. "At one point in time, the margin of gas might be 6 cents or it might be 26 cents. If you're paying 8 cents a gallon in credit card fees, at a minimum you're paying a third of your profit in credit card fees and sometimes all your profit in credit card fees."
Still, some customers are frustrated because prices are falling faster in other parts of the country. Crude oil, which peaked this summer at about $147 a barrel, was down to about $101 a barrel Friday.
"I have friends all over the country, and I get reports of what they're paying, and I see what I'm paying," said June Antosz, a part-time Steamboat resident. "I haven't seen a price decline here. It's ridiculous - all over the country it's $3.50 or less."
As a state, Colorado falls in the middle of the pack on gasoline prices, AAA Colorado spokeswoman Wave Dreher said. The lowest state average Friday was $3.40 a gallon in New Jersey. It remains to be seen what effect Hurricane Ike has on gas prices here, though any major damage to Texas oil refineries is expected to result in decreased production and increased costs.
Mark Larson, executive director of the Colorado Wyoming Petroleum Marketers Association, said gasoline stations were trying to recover from losses. For the first six months of the year, profit margins were the lowest they'd been since 1974, sometimes 2 or 3 cents a gallon, he said.
His organization represents petroleum marketers in legislative and regulatory venues. According to the group's Web site, its members sell 60 percent of all gasoline and special fuel sold wholesale and retail in Colorado.
"We make no apologies in saying we are now able to recoup at least halfway decent margins," Larson said.
He predicted prices would fall.
"We're so competitive that, that won't last," Larson said. "We're the only industry in the world that I know of that posts all our prices on the street corner for everybody to see a quarter-mile down the road."
He said some sellers were marketing their fuel at below cost to attract customers.
"Ultimately, the consumer's not getting a bad deal at any given time on gasoline," Larson said.
He and Peddie said prices were higher in the Steamboat area because of transportation and cost of living. Gasoline vendors must pay Steamboat's property prices, which are higher than those of Denver and many other Colorado cities, Larson said. The cost of labor also is higher, Peddie said.
"It's the cost of operating in the mountains. Whether it's Steamboat or Aspen or Vail, it's typically more expensive," Peddie said.
He and Larson also said gasoline stations have had trouble staying in the black.
"It's a tough business to make money in," Peddie said.
Gasoline prices ranged from $3.98 a gallon to $4.06 a gallon in Steamboat on Friday. At the Kum N Go in Hayden, the price was $4.09, and several stations in Craig were selling gas for $4.14.
There are some ways around those prices. At Bear River Valley Co-op in Hayden, the credit card price was $4.09 a gallon. But co-op members pay less, and all customers who pay with cash get a 4-cent-a-gallon discount, General Manager Sunny Rolando said.
That's "because of credit card processing fees," she said. "I pay thousands of dollars a month just to process credit cards. It's very expensive."
Several gas station owners declined to comment or did not want to go on the record.
Owners are not setting prices unfairly, Peddie said.
"I don't think there's anybody out there in the gas business of Steamboat that feels they're taking advantage of the community," Peddie said.