Why are Utah gas prices so high?

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Utah has the sixth-highest gasoline prices in the nation at $2.76 per gallon.

Utah has the sixth-highest gasoline prices in the nation at $2.76 per gallon. Three states now average below $2 per gallon.

I recently returned from a trip to Dallas, Texas.

Because my daughter and her family live there, my wife and I enjoy visiting the Lone Star state occasionally. It has friendly people, warm weather, shopping, entertainment, including major league baseball and NFL football — all things I love.

It also has something else, I discovered. It has inexpensive gasoline.

As we drove near my daughter’s home just north of Dallas, I saw signs for $2 per gallon gasoline. At some of the cut-rate stations, I saw signs for gas as low as $1.89.9 per gallon.

“Wow. The gas here is much cheaper than it is in Utah,” I said.

“And that’s for 87 octane,” she said.

We chatted about an apparent overproduction of oil in the United States that’s driving down gasoline prices. To me, a consumer, that situation seems like a good thing. It’s helping American families’ budgets. It indicates, perhaps, less dependency on foreign oil. But my daughter anecdotally pointed out a down side: one of her friends, a BYU graduate with a geology degree, is now living with little job insurance as oil companies reduce their work force.

Every white, fluffy cloud has a dark lining, I suppose.

When I returned home to Utah County, I did some checking on gas prices. According to the American Automobile Association’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report (“Your Trusted Source for Nationwide Gas Prices”), the average price of regular gasoline in Utah was $2.76, as of Thursday, Sept. 17.

By comparison, the average price of regular gas nationally was $2.30. The average price in Texas was $2.07. In South Carolina, it was $1.92 (South Carolina is one of three states with averages below $2).

In fact, Utah has the honor of being the sixth-most-expensive state in America to buy a gallon of gasoline. The high list goes as follows: Alaska, $3.19; California, $3.10; Nevada, $3.03; Hawaii, $2.95; Idaho, $2.77; and Utah, $2.76.

So why the disparity? Why doesn’t Utah has $2-per-gallon gasoline?

Michael Green, public relations manager at AAA, said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that gas prices are affected by a number of factors.

“Refinery maintenance, the switchover to summer blend gasoline, …demand,” all play a role in prices.

Green explained that state location is a factor as well.

“The closer you are to a refinery, generally means you’ll pay less at the pump,” Green said.

He also pointed out that because of their location, many states buy more expensive imported oil.

“Refineries along the West Coast and Northeast generally buy higher priced Brent crude oil from overseas,” Green said. Eventually these higher prices for imported crude are passed on to the consumer at the pump.

Taxes also affect prices.

Residents in California, New York, Connecticut and Hawaii pay the most in gas taxes. California drivers 69 cents per gallon in taxes, while Utah residents pay 43 cents per gallon, according to GasPriceWatch.com.

All of that said, Utah is still among the six most expensive states in America to buy gasoline. My daughter pays less at the pump than I do.

But, hey, look at it this way. Utah is doing its share to help employees of the big oil companies retain their jobs.

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Ron Bennett is a recently retired university journalism professor at Brigham Young University-Idaho, where he taught journalistic writing, editing and mass media classes. He received the Distinguished Faculty award at BYU-I in 2012, and he was honored by the College Media Advisers Association in 2002 with the Distinguished Newspaper Adviser's Award. Prior to entering education, he was a professional journalist at several newspapers, including the Gazette-Journal in Reno, Nevada.

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