Plummeting gas prices helping South Snohomish County consumers, school district save money

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Fuel pricesAs oil prices drop to five year lows, plummeting gas prices are welcome news to cash strapped consumers, businesses, and local governments in South Snohomish County.

The price per barrel of oil has dropped more than half in the last six months to less than $60 a barrel, mostly because of oversupply from OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) nations and U.S. shale producers who are battling over market share.

Retail gas is well below $3 at many gas stations locally and the price may come down more in the next few months as OPEC continues to maintain output.

Local governments that run fleets of vehicles are also seeing the price come down. The Edmonds School District, for example, is experiencing the lowest prices in four years.

The per-gallon cost for diesel in December’s fuel shipment to the district to fuel a fleet of 147 buses, was $2.55, which is 22.7 percent less than what it was in January when diesel was $3.30 a gallon, said Craig Christensen, the district’s transportation director.

The cost to the district in January was $2.91 a gallon for unleaded; now that’s fallen to $2.33 a gallon, about a 20 percent drop.

“It’s a significant difference over the past several years,” Christensen said. “We’ve usually spent more than budgeted. Fuel is difficult to budget for, there’s no crystal ball.”

“It’s certainly welcome,” he added. “Fuel and labor are our highest expenses.”

The district buys gas that is based on a state contract, with the price negotiated by the state, Christensen said.

For the average consumer, Costco has the lowest gas prices both here and in the greater Seattle area right now, according to SeattleGasPrices.com. Compared to a few months ago, gas is now nearly a $1 cheaper per gallon at some stations.

As of Wednesday evening, drivers could buy unleaded regular for $ 2.33 a gallon at the Lynnwood Costco pumps at 19105 Highway 99 and at the Shoreline Costco at 1175 N. 205th St. The QFC pumps at 17525 Highway 99 in Lynnwood sold unleaded regular for $2.35 and Safeway at 14826 Highway 99 also had it for $2.35. The Fred Meyer at 44th Avenue West and 196th Street Southwest had unleaded regular for $2.49 a gallon on Tuesday.

The cheapest gas in Mountlake Terrace went for $2.49 a gallon at the Arco station on 44th Avenue West and 212th Street.

Edmonds Liquor and Gas, 23726 100th Ave. W., had the lowest price in Edmonds, at $2.65 a gallon for regular unleaded.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer price index for gasoline and fuel oil has fallen more than 10 percent this year, which is helping offset the rising shelter price index which went up in 0.3 percent in November, and the food index which rose 0.2 percent in November.

– By Tony Dondero

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