Biz: Are Coloradans Paying Too Much at the Pump?

May 2012

I hate going to the gas station. It always costs more time and money than I expect. So, a few years ago, I devised a plan to delay the annoying trips to the pump until the last possible second. Whenever that you're-about-to-be-running-on-fumes light illuminates on the dashboard of my car, I reset my odometer and delay my trip to the pump for another 20 miles. Voilà. Procrastination at its best. 

In a way, this method has worked without fail (read: I've never run out of gas), but it is also inherently flawed because no matter how long I wait, I still have to actually go to the gas station. Lately, these trips have been particularly painful. For the last few weeks, Denver's gas prices have been higher than the national average, which is unusual. On Monday, the average price of a gallon of gas in Denver was $3.72, according to DenverGasPrices.com, 3 cents above the national average. Two weeks ago, gas in Denver was 4 cents above the national average. These pennies start to add up.

Here's the good news: The trend is unlikely to continue. "Colorado's prices do tend to be a bit cheaper," says Patrick DeHaan, a senior petroleum analyst. "Prices in the Rockies are a bit slower to move." Translation: Be patient. A year ago, gas prices in Colorado lagged behind the average by 13 cents. 

One of the reasons gas prices move slower in the Rockies, DeHaan says, is because there is less demand than in other areas of the country. Refineries in the Rockies process about 543,000 barrels of crude oil per day, which is significantly less than areas like the Midwest and the Gulf Coast (3.6 million and 7 million barrels, respectively). Colorado churns through less fuel and so prices in the state aren't updated as quickly as places like the Midwest and the Gulf Coast, according to DeHaan. All of which has got me thinking about my gas-station strategy: If I delay my next trip long enough, maybe prices will finally dip and I can save a few bucks.

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