Barnett Shale

Early Christmas present: Gas below $2 a gallon

Keshia Wilburn gets gas at Big Country Mart in Burleson on Tuesday, where gas prices were lowered to $1.99 a gallon.
Keshia Wilburn gets gas at Big Country Mart in Burleson on Tuesday, where gas prices were lowered to $1.99 a gallon. Star-Telegram

Jose Ali, manager of the Big Country Mart, wanted to give his customers an early Christmas present by dropping the price at the pump of his Burleson convenience store Tuesday below $2 a gallon.

While there was a long list of gas stations in Tarrant County flirting with gas prices at that level, Ali’s was among the first to actually drop the price to $1.99, according to the consumer website FortWorthGasPrices.com.

Ali said he wanted to “help out people.”

“If gas is down, they can spend more money on Christmas shopping,” said Ali, whose store is at 4624 E. Farm Road 1187, or East Rendon Crowley Road. “I had four or five cars lined up when I first did it.”

By late Tuesday, at least two other area stations, both in the Stockyards area, joined Ali in spreading holiday cheer of $1.99 gas, and 12 other stations were reporting prices between $2.01 and $2.05, the website reported.

In the past few weeks, the price of gas has been dropping faster than a skinny Santa down a chimney because the global price of oil is in free fall. The price of crude oil closed Tuesday at $55.93 a barrel, nearly half of what it was in June.

Last week, AAA Texas reported that the statewide average for a gallon of unleaded regular gasoline was $2.40, a drop of 10 cents in a week and 70 cents lower than a year ago. But by Tuesday, the statewide average was already down to $2.31, putting last week’s decline far in the rearview mirror.

“The prices are dropping. Each week we see these lower prices that provide more disposable income for the holidays,” said Doug Shupe, AAA Texas/New Mexico spokesman.

Last year, it cost travelers across the country an average of $45 to fill up a 14-gallon fuel tank, the size for an average family vehicle, the national AAA office reported. This year, it will cost about $36 to fill that gas tank, or an average $9 in savings.

Production in countries outside the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, such as the U.S., has surged to its biggest growth ever while demand growth is at five-year lows. The fall in oil prices gathered pace in late November when OPEC didn't change its output target.

Ken Morgan, director of TCU’s Energy Institute, said that if the price of oil continues to drop it could spell trouble for the overall economy.

“It has been the biggest job and economic engine in the last 10 years. Take it out, it is not good,” Morgan said. “There is a ripple effect of saving at the pump throughout our economy.”

How low will the price of oil go? “That is the billion-dollar question for the oil companies,” Morgan said, with the Saudis and the Mideastern countries not cutting back on production.

“Throw out that crystal ball and get your catcher’s mitt for the knuckle or screwball coming at you. It is hard to predict,” he said.

Max B. Baker, 817-390-7714

Twitter: @MaxBBaker

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