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Publish Date: 3/11/2005

Pump prices reach record
State gas average at $2.029, AAA reports


LONGMONT — The average statewide price of regular unleaded gas hit an all-time high Thursday, according to AAA’s daily price survey.

The statewide average was $2.029, AAA said, up from $2.014 Wednesday. The previous high was $2.028 on May 29, 2004.

Economists point out that while Thursday’s level represents the highest numerical price, the true cost of gasoline has actually been far higher, when adjusted for inflation.

In 1980, for example, the price of gas, when adjusted for inflation, was more than $2.75, and it rose to about $3.10 in 1982, according to the federal Energy Information Administration.

That doesn’t mean driving habits will change any time soon.

“Gasoline is a fairly inelastic good,” said Neil Gamson, an economist with the EIA in Washington, D.C. “The consumption will not change much regardless of the price. It’s not like a diamond. Will people carpool if they didn’t before? I think the price shock would have to be greater for people to really alter their driving habits.”

But the driving and working habits of Longmont’s residents could already be helping protect their household budgets, said Gary Horvath, an analyst, and Jeff Romine, a research economist, with the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business.

That’s because about 50 percent of Longmont residents also work in the city. In other cities, as many as 75 percent of workers must commute to another city for work. The less you drive, the smaller a portion of the household budget gasoline represents.

“Longmont’s something more of a separable community. To a great degree, in the Front Range, Longmont’s unique, Romine said. “You don’t drive that much when you work in your own town.”

Romine and Horvath said the Boulder Turnpike serves as a visual reminder of how different Boulder and Longmont are.

The Boulder-Denver Turnpike, Romine said, is bumper-to-bumper both ways all morning and all evening. But while roads in the Longmont area get busy at rush hour, they’re nowhere near as congested with commuters as Boulder’s are.

“The number of people who live and work in Longmont is shrinking, but among the Front Range communities, it’s separate and self-sustaining,” Romine said. “It’s the unusual person who would live in Longmont and work in the Denver Tech Center.”

Trevor Hughes can be reached at 303-684-5220, or by e-mail at thughes@times-call.com.

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