One subject that often seems to be a topic of conversation is gasoline prices and whether they are up sharply or back down.
Lately, though, area residents seem to be asking my local gasoline prices seem to be so much higher than other areas.
According to Horace Bondurant, who owns Mount Airy Oil Company, North Carolina’s 36.25-cent tax on every gallon of gas makes for an easy explanation as to why gasoline can be purchased at such a lower rate in neighboring Virginia communities.
However, the price at the pump is also much lower in areas such as Elkin.
According to Gasbuddy.com, the state’s gas tax is the fourth highest in the nation, trailing only New York, California and Pennsylvania. Virginia’s gas tax is 0.168-cent per gallon, according to Bondurant. The effect of the lower gas tax is evident when comparing gas rates in a community such as Hillsville, Virginia, to the rates of Mount Airy.
On Monday, Mount Airy drivers were paying more than $2.50 per gallon of gas, and those drivers purchasing gas in Hillsville were paying less than $2.20 per gallon. Even in Cana, Virginia, just across the state line, motorists could fill-up with gasoline priced 20 cents per gallon less than Mount Airy.
While taxes could very well account for the price margin between prices in Virginia and North Carolina, the matter can’t account for the wide margin between gas rates within Surry County and the surrounding area.
For instance, on Monday the price for a gallon of regular unleaded gas at the Mount Airy Sheetz location was $2.56. The price for the same gallon of gas at the Elkin Sheetz location was $2.25. At the Dobson Sheetz location gas was $2.49 per gallon.
One local resident described gas prices in Mount Airy as “stealing” from local residents. “I’m very upset about gas prices here in our little corner of the county,” said the resident, who now prefers to get his gas at 20-cents to 30-cents cheaper in surrounding communities.
Bondurant, who described locally-owned oil companies as “dinosaurs” that are slowly becoming extinct, said that large corporations such as Sheetz and Speedway end up setting local gas prices. “Our gas prices are based on the competition,” said Bondurant. “We look at what our neighbor is doing.”
Bondurant has been operating his network of area Shell stations since 1983 and added that there are a number of things that have changed the way his company operates. For instance, Bondurant said that credit card fees now account for about 7 cents per gallon of gas.
Bondurant said that the much lower gas prices in Elkin, to his knowledge, are being driven by “a war” between Murphy’s and Circle K. As to why prices are so high in Mount Airy, Bondurant responded with “None of the corporations have cut their prices. When they do, we will follow suit.”
“Gas prices are strictly based on what our competitors are doing,” concluded Bondurant.
An attempt was made to contact officials from Wilco-Hess and Sheetz for an explanation of how those companies set their gas prices. However, calls to those companies were not immediately returned.