Take a drive down Highway 51 in Tipton County and the gas prices you’ll see are eye popping.
On Wednesday Mapco Mart, Exxon, Kroger and FasTimes in Covington all had the lowest grade of gas priced at $1.39 per gallon. C-Town Market was at $1.37 and Midway Market and Walmart were at $1.38.
Five stations in Atoka and Munford – Valero, Exxon, Kroger, Shell and Marathon – were all at $1.29. In Brighton FasTimes was at $1.27 and Uncle Sams was at $1.09.
In Tennessee the average price, which includes all grades, is at $1.68, 49 cents less than a month ago and 85 cents below what it was in April of 2019.
The answer as to why is the same answer to most economy-related questions asked these days: coronavirus.
Demand for gasoline is at it lowest point since 1993.
“In the normal gas cycle there’s a spring bump where it’s in more demand,” said Megan Cooper, a spokesperson for the American Automobile Association. “You’ve usually got nice weather, spring breaks, things like that where people are traveling more. We’re not seeing that at this point. That’s kind of the gist of it.”
Tennessee gas prices have declined for 42 straight days and two metro areas – Kingsport and Johnson City – have seen seen double-digit decreases in the past week. Eight metro areas, where prices are typically higher than rural areas, have average prices below $1.75.
If the average price drops below $1.50, which Cooper said is likely at this point, it would be the lowest price in more than a decade.
Records kept at AAA only go back to 2000. In April of that year the average price was $1.39, which is the going price right now in Tipton County.
Some adjustments are being made at refineries, but that has not affected gas prices.
“Last week saw a slight jump in crude oil prices with refineries trying to reduce the amount of gas they’re producing to try and level out the market,” Cooper said. “We haven’t seen that impact at the pump yet because demand is so low. There could be some volatility, but we’re still anticipating that those prices are going to stay low for the time being.”
In December of 2001 the average price of gas in Tennessee was $1.05. Could prices go that low in the coming weeks?
“How low? We don’t really know,” said Cooper. “I’ve heard so many times we’re in unprecedented times and this is one of those things that is definitely not an exception … Until the market changes in response to COVID-19, we’re still expecting the low demand to push those prices even lower in the near future.”