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(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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Pump it up: Arizona has some of the cheapest gas nationwide

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

PHOENIX — Eladio Castellanos filled the gas tank of a black Dodge Charge outside of a Circle K gas station for $1.59 per gallon. A few minutes later, the price to fill up his tank makes him happy.

It cost him less than $21.

Drivers across Arizona are experiencing a similar thrill. Arizona had the third lowest gas prices in the nation, with an average price of $1.71 per gallon, according to AAA Arizona, an automobile association.

The lowest prices are in Tucson, at about $1.53 per gallon, compared to Flagstaff’s high of $1.93.

It may not last long. Gas prices in Arizona and elsewhere in the country are creeping upward, according to Michelle Donati, spokeswoman for AAA Arizona.

The low gas prices are caused by increased production due to record supplies of both crude and fuel oil, she said. However, refineries are switching to the summer formula, which is causing a slight increase in cost.

Valero station owner Mandeep Sodhi said low prices attract more customers to her six Valley gas stations, and low prices also mean customers are also buying items at the convenient store.

“It’s good for the business, it’s good for the customers, it’s good for everybody,” Sodhi said.

Sodhi said customers are attracted to an “aggressive price” instead of a brand name when they fill up their tank. The low gas prices benefit all gas stations, from those operated by large corporations to small, independently owned businesses, she said.

“Whenever we have the low prices, they come here,” Sodhi, who has owned gas stations with her husband for more than 16 years, said. “They don’t care that there is a (QuickTrip) across the street. They always want to come here if we have the lowest prices.”

Sodhi said she has more control over the purchasing and pricing of the products that she sells in the convenient store than most corporate gas stations. This helps her make a profit from convenience store sales even when she has to sell gas at prices less than her purchase price.

Neal Jackson, a manager at Fast Gas in Tempe, Arizona, said it is easier to compete with corporate gas stations when the price of gas is lower.

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