Understanding The Factors Behind Varying Gas Prices In Utah
Why is gas more expensive in some areas compared to others? This is where I began my dive into the rabbit hole that is gas price research.
For instance, on January 26, AAA’s morning gas report said Washington County’s average price for unleaded fuel was 30 cents higher than Iron County. These two Southern Utah regions are not far apart with about 45 miles between St. George and Cedar City.
I decided to get to the bottom of this strange occurrence, so I spoke with an expert on the subject. Prof. Munir Mahmud teaches economics at Utah Tech University’s College of Business and was just the person I needed to clarify the reasoning behind these price differences.
According to Prof. Mahmud, one of the biggest reasons for the fluctuating gas prices between counties has to do with the climate in the area, and the blend of fuel used during specific times of year.
Prof. Mahmud said, “The main reason is the Winter blend. You see, the Winter blend that they actually started adopting, we don’t use it yet. The Winter blend is cheaper, but the Winter blend vaporizes faster and is less pure in petroleum content.”
Now I know what you’re thinking, “But it’s Winter for all of America right now.” Just because it’s Winter and it’s a little colder, that doesn’t mean your local gas station is using the Winter blend. It’s the colder areas like Iron County or Salt Lake County where snowstorms are common that the Winter blend is needed.
Prof. Mahmud said, “In the colder areas, you need the Winter blend so the engines can ignite quickly so the car can start warming up. In our southern counties, like where we are, we’re still not really windy, and we don’t have snow or anything. So, we really do not need the Winter blend to be put in as quickly as the upper part of the state has to do it.”
Although it sounds nice to have cheaper gas with the Winter blend, Prof. Mahmud said it can harm the environment due to the speed at which the fuel vaporizes in the engine. Faster vaporization leads to more emissions that can harm the environment around you.
Winter blends of fuel can also drain your tank faster for the same reason. If the fuel vaporizes faster, then you must fill your tank more often depending on how much you drive. This could also explain why Salt Lake City has such poor air quality, granted there are a myriad of reasons for that.
Despite gas being more expensive in Washington County, the fact the gas lasts longer and doesn’t cause quite as much damage to the environment can be seen as a positive.
Thank you to Prof. Mahmud for answering all my questions, and there is so much more from the good professor we couldn’t mention in this article. Keep an eye out for another article focused on more of the environmental impact these fluctuating gas prices bring, and how electric vehicles may not be helping as much as we think they are.
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Gallery Credit: Ryan Antoinette Valenzuela