Dan Thompson has two super-duty trucks that he uses for his business, Thompson Bros. Speed and Custom in Chelsea.

One runs on gas, the other on diesel, and the gas one might be his favorite truck right now.

“I have gone from paying $180 to $80 to fill it,” he said, leaning on the counter at Berry & Berry Floral in Gardiner and writing out a quick note on a birthday card to his wife.

That’s because across the region, the long, slow, slide in the price of oil internationally has resulted in the price of gasoline slipping below $2 a gallon in and around the region this week for the first time since 2009. A year ago, area gas prices averaged $2.20.

For Thompson, whose company services snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles and motorcycles — “Anything with an engine, really,” Thompson said — the price of gas has a bearing on his expenses. Not everyone who has one of those vehicles has the ability to get them into the shop for service, so he’ll pick them up and drop them off.

Across the counter from Thompson, Linda Baehr was gathering stems into a bouquet for Thompson. She, too, has noticed the trend in lower prices.

“We travel quite a lot, my husband and I,” Baehr said, wrapping the flowers in cellophane. Over the holidays, they were in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where the price of gas was $1.64; and last summer, they were traveling to Connecticut to visit relatives and noticed gas prices that were running lower than those in Maine at the time.

She doesn’t have a long drive in to work. In fact, Baehr could walk from home if she chose. But her husband, who teaches in Turner, has a longer drive and a higher gas bill.

Although the statewide average price, according to both AAA and gasbuddy.com, is hovering around $2, many gas stations in this part of the state are charging $1.94 to $1.99 for a gallon of regular gas.

The mechanism that governs the price of gas here and elsewhere are the economic laws of supply and demand, with a couple of other factors tossed in.

The current low price is partly a result of seasonal trends, said Patrick DeHaan, a senior petroleum analyst for gasbuddy.com. “In the winter, motorists are not flocking to Martha’s Vineyard. Demand tends to hit bottom in January and February,” he said, and in the United States — the world’s No. 1 consumer of gasoline — inventories of gasoline are relatively high.

The next-largest consumer is China, which has been hampered by an economic slowdown that’s being felt in world stock markets and in the supply of fuel because gas consumption is dropping.

Oil, he said, is part of the global economy.

For years, OPEC, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, used production levels to move prices. But the expansion of oil production in the United States through hydraulic fracturing has increased the U.S. domestic supply; and in response, the countries represented in the oil cartel have opted to keep production high, pushing down the price of oil, to undercut U.S. producers.

“The Saudis seem to be defending their market share,” DeHaan said. The price drop is affecting other countries, such as Venezuela, which is an OPEC member; and Russia, which is not. But the main targets are the U.S. producers, who might not be able to continue to drill for oil economically when the commodity price is so low.

DeHaan said no one seems interested in cutting production at this point, and that means that these relatively low prices are expected to stick around into the summer months. On Friday, the price of a barrel of crude oil dropped below $30, triggering a steep drop on the stock exchange, signaling uncertainty in the markets. That’s the lowest a barrel of oil has been since 2003.

But for drivers across the area, that’s nothing but good news.

Farmington resident Cindy Bartlett was filling up on Friday at The Big Apple in Fairfield for $1.99 per gallon.

“It’s amazing,” said Bartlett, who added that she commutes each day from Farmington to Fairfield and that the lower gas prices will save her money on the drive. “It’s definitely going to make a huge difference,” she said.

In Waterville, customers at Cumberland Farms on College Avenue were filling up for $1.98 per gallon — or $1.88 with a special membership card.

“I think it’s great. I can fill my tank for $20,” said Jerry Berard, of Fairfield. Berard also drives a lot to get to work at Kohl’s in Augusta.

“It’s saving me money,” he said.

“It’s awesome. I hope it stays this way,” said Bruce Marrithew, of Waterville, another customer at Cumberland Farms.

Barbara Damren has gone back to work recently in the home care sector, and she estimates she drives about 400 miles a week visiting clients, in addition to her daily commute from Mount Vernon. She’s looking ahead to this summer, when she and her husband will drive to Wyoming to visit their son, who works in Grand Teton National Park.

“The low prices will make that quite nice,” she said.

Staff writer Rachel Ohm contributed to this report.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ


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