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Short-term gains?

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Drivers rejoice over lower gas prices, and in South Jeffco they are lower than anywhere

By AJ Vicens

South Jeffco motorists pay considerably less for gasoline than people in Denver and across Colorado, according to a review of 11 area gas stations by the Courier.

Drivers in an area bordered loosely by South Simms Street, Ken Caryl Avenue, West Belleview Avenue and South Wadsworth Boulevard paid an average of $1.43 per gallon of regular Dec. 17. Drivers in the Denver area paid an average of $1.52, and drivers statewide paid $1.60.

The lowest price in the South Jeffco area Dec. 17 was $1.37 per gallon of regular unleaded, and the highest was $1.49.

"I can actually go places now," said Jacinda Borzych, as she filled up a large pickup truck Dec. 17 at a gas station on West Coal Mine Avenue. "It's good now. I didn't think it would ever get back below $2 a gallon."

The last time gas prices in the Denver area were this low was in mid-February 2004, according to AAA.

Borzych feels the pinch at the pump more than many, as she owns two large pickup trucks.

"Before, I had to pay about $98 per truck when I filled up," she said. "Now it's about $30 a truck." She said that during the spike in gas prices earlier in the year, she drove only drive to work and back.

Gas prices hit an all-time high of $4.01 per gallon of regular in Denver on July 17, according to AAA's gas price tracker. Those highs coincided with historically high prices for oil last summer, which boosted the prices of nearly everything.

Mohammed Akacem, an economics professor at the Metropolitan State College of Denver, spends a lot of time studying oil and its impact on the local and world economy. He said that lower oil prices may lead to less pain at the pump but may not be a good thing in the long run.

"High prices are good for us," Akacem said. "That is the only incentive (automakers) will have to actually do something about consumption."

Akacem explained that high oil and gasoline prices encourage conservation and force society to look for alternative fuel sources, "some of which would be eco-friendly."

"In that sense yes, lower prices would help when we're filling our gas tanks and when we buy food, but if we're looking at the grander scale in terms of national energy policy … lower prices aren't all that good."

Akacem added that low oil prices help countries that import most of their oil, like the U.S. and Japan, but it hurts oil exporters, and they won't stand by and take it for long.

Akacem said it's nearly impossible to predict the price of oil, but if prices stay where they are, automakers may go back to producing low-efficiency sport utility vehicles in the numbers they did before.

And there's another downside to low oil prices, Akacem said: "Very few oil companies and producers are going to have the incentive to look for more oil."

The lack of further exploration, combined with a recent decision by a cartel of oil-producing countries to cut production by more than 2 million barrels per day, may drive the price back up, Akacem said.

"If we're not replenishing existing reserves, we're doomed to face a shortage sometime soon," Akacem said. "So low oil prices cut both ways: We save money in the short term, but we discourage further exploration."

Back in South Jeffco, Karen Williams, a postal delivery worker, said she loves the lower gas prices. As she filled her postal truck Dec. 17 at a gas station near South Wadsworth Boulevard and West Coal Mine Avenue, Williams, who lives in Golden, said the high gas prices had her supervisors asking her to change the way she worked.

"They asked us to walk our routes when we could," Williams said. "You know, just park the truck." For the most part Williams was OK with that, but as the balmy days of summer and fall gave way to the colder and icier days of winter, walking routes with packages was not an option.

In her personal life, the lower gas prices have had a huge positive impact.

"Big time," Williams said. "It's half the price."

She added that even though she paid more for gas, she didn’t cut back on driving.

"You just pay it," Williams said with a smile. "What else can you do?"

Contact AJ Vicens at aj@evergreenco.com, and check www.columbinecourier.com for updates and breaking news.