Gas goes for a premium

Truck driver Kyle Stabler of Phoenix fills up his truck at the Acorn Travel Plaza at 2222 U.S. Highway 6&50 on Tuesday afternoon. It cost him about $500 to fill the tank.

Fuel prices that dipped below $3 a gallon in Colorado last month are accelerating toward the $4 gallon mark.

The current average for a gallon of gas in the state was $3.59 as of Tuesday, according to AAA Colorado. That’s a quick spike from prices in early January, when the average price of a gallon of fuel in the state was $2.91, the automotive advocacy group reported. The national average for a gallon of fuel on Tuesday was $3.78.

“The good news is that Colorado is staying below the national average,” AAA Colorado spokeswoman Wave Dreher said. “Though it’s climbing, it’s not as painful as the rest of the country.”

Dreher said AAA is predicting fuel prices will increase another 10 cents, reaching their peak prices in Colorado in mid-March and April. Fuel prices in the past couple of years have peaked earlier in the year than in 2010 and 2011, when prices traditionally tended to surge after the Memorial Day holiday and stayed steep through the summer months.

Recent increases may be attributed to refineries changing their fuel compositions from winter blends to summer blends, Dreher said. Also, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries has reduced its production for international supplies, she said.

“It used to be that you’d read about the price of a barrel of oil going up and you’d see it at the pump two weeks later,” Dreher said. “Now we’re seeing it the next afternoon.”

Dreher said AAA doesn’t expect to see $4 a gallon fuel averages nationwide this year. That prediction should hold true unless other unforeseen factors such as hurricanes or problems arise in the Middle East, she said.

A quick peek around Grand Junction on Tuesday showed fuel prices ranging from about $3.49 a gallon to $3.60 a gallon for regular unleaded.

Western Convenience Store at the corner of Monument Road and Broadway, which often promotes itself as the least expensive fuel in town, listed a gallon of E-85 fuel at $3.30 on Tuesday.

But it was the price of diesel fuel, not regular unleaded fuel, that affected Montrose resident Henry Bellew. A gallon of diesel fuel topped $4 at several gas stations around Grand Junction on Tuesday. That meant Bellew opted to leave his diesel truck at home for a trip to Grand Junction.

“It’s pretty bad when it’s over $4 a gallon,” he said while fueling his Jeep Cherokee at Diamond Shamrock at the corner of 10th Street and North Avenue. “We try to drive less.”


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