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Gas wars give Fargo motorists a quarter-a-gallon break

FARGO — Motorists in Fargo this week are paying a full 25 cents less for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline than their Grand Forks counterparts.

Paying about $3.75 less per tank, they are the lucky beneficiaries of a gas war that's lasted for at least a week, said senior petroleum analyst Patrick DeHaan of GasBuddy.com.

"They've been duking it out," DeHaan said. "Six stations have been at $2.24 a gallon, and nobody really wants to raise their price. It looks like the price that stations are paying is very similar, but the stations at $2.24 probably are losing 5 to 10 cents a gallon because of the price war."

The average price for a gallon of gas in Grand Forks on Monday, Nov. 6, was $2.49. GasBuddy.com reported the average price was the same in Grafton, N.D., and Crookston. To the west, the average price was $2.44 in Devils Lake. The last price reported in Mayville, N.D., was $2.37 on Saturday morning.

Aggressive pricing

Gene LaDoucer, spokesman with the North Dakota Triple A Auto Club, said Grand Forks gas prices traditionally average about 13 cents higher than in Fargo, but the bigger spread now is due to Fargo's extremely competitive market.

"Fargo, by and large, always is in a gas war," he said. "It's one of the most competitive markets in the country. That's why prices generally are lower than anywhere in the region, not just North Dakota. ... Prices are generally lower than anyplace in Minnesota or South Dakota and, oftentimes, they are the lowest in the country."

LaDoucer said a number of variables are at play, including the fact Fargo is a much larger city and that it lies at the intersection of two major interstates.

Gas stations can survive a smaller profit margin if they have more customers spending money on other convenience items and services, such as pizzas and car washes.

"There's almost an unlimited amount of variables that go into it," LaDoucer said. "It just so happens those variables benefit the Fargo market more."

Looking ahead

Overall, gas prices nationwide jumped about 7 cents per gallon in the past week. DeHaan said he would not be surprised to see retail gas prices increase again in the next couple of weeks.

"Oil prices this morning are at their highest level since 2015," he said. "The big 'what if' is that OPEC is meeting over Thanksgiving, and it's largely expected OPEC may agree to extend the oil production cuts it agreed to last Thanksgiving.

"If that happens, that's largely bullish for the price of oil. It will cause oil prices to remain relatively high ... (and not give motorists) much sizeable relief, if any, for the holidays."

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