Gasoline prices will drop 3 cents a gallon at 25 BP and Scot stations in the Washington area starting this morning, the Standard Oil Co. (Ohio) announced last night.
The surprise announcement means gasoline at these stations and other Sohio-owned and-operated stations across the country will be $1.01 a gallon for regular, $1.05 for unleaded and $1.08 for premium at self-service pumps and 2 cents higher at full-service pumps -- probably the lowest prices in the nation.
The average price of a gallon of gasoline in the Washington area is now about $1.20.
The decreases are the first to significantly affect the Washington area in more than a year of soaring gasoline prices. A Sohio spokesman said he did not know how long the new low prices would be in effect.
The Sohio statement attributed the decrease to "our lower crude oil costs and maximum refinery efficiency," but did not make clear why Sohio's crude oil costs were lower at a time when those costs are rising steadily worldwide.
The spokesman said last night he did not know why crude oil prices were lower, but oil industry analysts speculated that Sohio may be buying less expensive foreign crude oil and depending more on Alaskan crude which is subject to federal price controls and therefore cheaper.
Sohio may have been forced to cut its prices in order to stay within federal regulations that control how the company passes its costs on to customers, the statement suggested. The statement was not explicit on this point, however.
Sohio is supplying slightly more gasoline to customers through its stations than it did a year ago, in contrast to other major oil companies that have sharply reduced supplies.
"However, out low price has put heavy demand on our stations and they are forced into shortened hours of operation," the statement said.
The company expects crude oil costs "to continue to rise and . . . spur higher gasoline prices in the future," the statement said.