Drivers Get Yule Gift: 99-cent Gas

December 12, 1991|By Robert Lee | Robert Lee,Staff writer

Merry Christmas Anne Arundel County: The price of a gallon of gas has dipped under a buck for the first time in over a year.

Cars quickly backed up on to Ritchie Highway when, yesterday at 11 a.m., independent dealer Jim Munroe became one of the first dealers in the region to drop the price of regular unleaded self-serve gas at his stationbelow a dollar.

"I want to go through Christmas, if possible, with it under a dollar as a Christmas present to thank the loyal customers who have stuck with me through my lawsuit," Munroe said yesterday.

Munroe filedfor Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last spring after his landlord and fuel supplier -- Exxon -- suddenly quadrupled the rent on his second station, at Jumpers Hole and Mountain roads in Sun Valley. He hascontinued to operate at Ritchie Highway

Munroe has since closed the other station and sued Exxon, claiming the oil company is refusingto deliver gas and has been illegally withholding credit-card receipts from him. Exxon is counter-suing Munroe, claiming he doctored a regular check to make it look like a certified check when paying for a load of gas and saying his franchise should be terminated.

Roy Littlefield, executive director of the Maryland Service Station Association, said Jumpers' price is the lowest he's heard of in the state since the Iraqi army invaded Kuwait.

Prices around the state are generally running above $1.10, Littlefield said. On Dec. 5, the last timehis association held a survey, the price dealers paid for gas from the eight major oil companies ranged from Texaco's $1.07.69 to Crown's$1.12.5.

However, Maryland's 200 independent dealers can purchasetheir gas on "the rack," or spot market, for around 93 cents a gallon, Littlefield said. As a result of his conflict, Munroe is buying his gas on the spot market.

"Seventy-six percent of the gas in Maryland is sold to dealers who are required to buy through direct supply contracts at prices determined by the eight big suppliers," Littlefield said. "I guess that's why the companies have always made so much money in Maryland."

Munroe's spot market dealer, who preferred not to be named because of Munroe's conflict with Exxon, said this week'sunusually low prices are a result of the unseasonably warm weather.

"When it's 60 degrees outside, there's no place to put all the heating oil that people bought in anticipation of the December weather. So its price goes down and it drags the rest of the crude oil products down with it," the supplier said.

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