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Holiday travel up as fuel prices fall slightly

Unleaded 88, also known as E15, is just $1.99 a gallon through Monday at the Sheetz convenience store chain. The blend contains 15% ethanol. Auto expert advise to check your vehicle’s owner’s manual for compatibility. Cary Shaffer/Butler Eagle

Heading into the Thanksgiving holiday, drivers should benefit from falling fuel prices, with the national average for a gallon of gasoline dropping 11 cents in the past week to $3.66 according to AAA.

As of Wednesday, the average price per gallon of regular 87 octane gasoline in Butler County sat at $3.91 according to AAA, while the average price in Pennsylvania was $4.01.

AAA predicts 54.6 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home this Thanksgiving, which is a 1.5% increase when compared to 2021 Thanksgiving travel.

“We (AAA) did a survey in the summer, and consumers told us they were making changes in their day-to-day habits so they could prioritize things like leisure travel,” AAA spokesman Jim Garrity said.

Although travel for the upcoming weekend is expected to rise, overall demand is expected to drop, Garrity said, simply due to the nature of the winter months to come.

“It’s pretty typical this time of year,” Garrity said. “What we normally see is people start heading back to work and school, so the demand goes down because fewer people take road trips. We also switched to winter blend, which brings prices down because it’s less expensive to produce.”

The volatility of the crude oil market has continued to play a significant role in the price of gasoline, and it looks to stay that way, Garrity said, because of problems overseas and potential recession concerns.

“It then goes back to what we see at the pump because crude oil is 50 to 60% of what you pay; it’s the main ingredient,” Garrity said.

With the hopes to alleviate some pressure at the pump, restaurant and convenience store chain Sheetz announced Monday it’s reducing the price of its Unleaded 88 gasoline to $1.99 per gallon through the weekend.

The promotion began last Monday and is scheduled to last through Monday.

Unleaded 88 contains 5% more ethanol than Unleaded 87, which in turn burns cleaner, but drivers will sacrifice fuel economy according to Ralph Lukas, of the service department at Butler Tires for Less.

“I know 88 octane, you burn it faster and it does burn cleaner,” Lukas said. “If you have a car that gets 23 miles to the gallon you’re going to drop about 3 miles to the gallon.”

According to a media statement from Sheetz, Unleaded 88 has been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for use in all 2001 and newer cars, trucks and SUVs, but Lukas said even older vehicles are more than capable of using Unleaded 88.

“I have a 1996 Chevy S-10 pickup and I put it in it and have no problem at all,” Lukas said.

Before everyone goes rushing to the fuel pump for Unleaded 88, Lukas said consumers should do their research to make sure their vehicle is compatible.

“When you hear 2001 and newer, your dealer is probably going to tell you no, but if you get online and look, quite a bit of vehicles can use it,” Lukas said. “I don’t see any issue with it.”

The price will be available only at the 368 Sheetz stores that offer Unleaded 88, and drivers can check if their local Sheetz sells Unleaded 88 through the Sheetz mobile app.

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