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Crude’s plunge starts gas price war

Crude’s plunge starts gas price war

Manny Singh couldn’t recall the last time he advertised his gasoline for less than $3 per gallon.

Manny Singh couldn’t recall the last time he advertised his gasoline for less than $3 per gallon.

The owner of the Valley Mini Mart in Amsterdam wanted to drum up more business, so he shaved 14 cents off the price of gas. The decrease, which dropped his pump price to $2.99, must have touched a nerve with cost-conscious motorists, because Singh is now selling nearly three times the volume he was before offering the deal.

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“It’s nuts,” he said Monday, as a steady procession of vehicles pulled up to his pumps off Route 5S. “People are waiting in line 10 minutes and longer to pump gas.”

Singh’s station was among about a half-dozen in the Capital Region that dropped gasoline to prices that few have seen since the cost of crude oil began a steep ascent and then shot past $100 per barrel. Last week, the cost of crude plunged to about $78 per barrel, the lowest price since September 2007.

The lower cost has sent the average per-gallon price of gasoline tumbling throughout the Capital Region. AAA reported the average retail cost of gas in the Albany-Schenectady-Troy area dropped to $3.27 per gallon, which was nearly 94 cents less than the highest price recorded in July and 43 cents less than last month.

The abrupt dip has prompted some area gas station operators to offer prices that many drivers haven’t seen in almost a year. Stations below the $3-per-gallon mark have reported good sales, which have in turn spurred competition among nearby owners.

Singh said the Stewart’s Shops about a quarter-mile from his station dropped their price just 10 minutes after he did. A similar situation appears to be playing out in Mayfield, where Stewart’s was offering gas at a region-low of $2.95 per gallon at its store off Route 30, while the nearby Adirondack Mobil had a posted price of $2.98 per gallon.

Shan Petroleum on Hamburg Street in Rotterdam was drawing motorists from as far away as Saratoga Springs and Albany with $2.99-per-gallon gas. Owner Syed Shah said he dropped the price Friday after catching a break from his wholesaler.

“I tried to give a gift to people for the Columbus Day weekend,” he said. “If I get it cheaper I’ll sell it cheaper.”

The price caught the eye of Lou Bavaro, who held off filling up his Honda Accord when he noticed the cost of gasoline starting to drop. The Cohoes resident was just about on empty when he notice the hand-written “gas sale” sign Shah posted by his pumps.

By waiting a few days to fill up, Bavaro estimated he saved about $7. He speculated the spike last summer prompted many to become more cost-conscious, thereby lowering the demand.

“It think it’s going to go down even more,” he said.

But James Nelson of Guilderland wasn’t as smitten with the sudden appearance of $2.99-per-gallon gas. He said the rise in prices had altered the public perception so that many people think they’re buying cheap gas when they’re not.

“People are brainwashed into thinking it’s a good deal,” he said. “This still isn’t a good deal.”

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