There is great news this week for the average Joe! Gas prices are down and will continue to fall...for now. The national average price for a gallon of gasoline is now $3.42, down from $3.59 on September 1st.
This average price is the lowest it's been at this time of year since 2010, according to AP. Last year at about this time drivers were paying 37 cents/gallon more than they are this year, on average, because Hurricane Irene and refinery and pipeline problems disrupted gasoline production in August and September. California prices rose sharply in late September, then hit a record $4.67 per gallon in early October.
Fortunately for us, there are no such problems this year. However, California drivers are again paying the highest average price, outside of Hawaii and Alaska, at $3.95 per gallon, according to AAA, OPIS and Wright Express. The lucky people of South Carolina drivers are paying the least, at $3.11 per gallon.
Reportedly, Even high oil prices haven't stopped gasoline's decline, as oil briefly topped $112 in late August as a U.S. threat of military action against Syria made the market nervous about Middle East supplies. Even though the price of oil has since fallen, it still remains above $100 per barrel, but gasoline has actually dropped to its lowest price since January 31st. In fact, Friday, oil fell 16 cents to close at $102.87 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
But, Tom Kloza, Chief Oil Analyst at GasBuddy.com and Oil Price Information Service, which tracks retail and wholesale gasoline prices, remains cautiously optimistic."It's a layup for me to predict lower prices until Columbus Day weekend."
Wholesale gasoline prices have fallen faster in recent days than pump prices, so drivers can expect to pay even less as the pump prices catch up. HIstorically, gas prices tend to decline soon after Labor Day. However, despite the recent drop, the national average is unlikely to fall back to $3.29 per gallon, which was this year's low, set in early January. That is, unless the price of oil falls under $100 per barrel, GasBuddy's Kloza said.
This could happen as long as tensions in the Middle East don't flare up again, and if the hurricane season remains tame. Fortunatley, U.S. oil production is expected to hit a monthly rate in October that the country hasn't even seen since 1989, and, Saudi Arabian exports typically rise in late fall and in winter as the country uses less oil to generate electricity for air conditioning. This generally makes global supplies higher, but last year gas prices didn't start going down until mid-October. There are many reasons for this fall's drop in price, experts say:
For one thing, refiners are allowed to switch to cheaper blends of gasoline in the winter months as clean-air rules are relaxed. Also, gas demand declines in the fall after the kiddies go back to school and summer driving ends, and supplies rise, at the same time, because refiners are still making gasoline as they continue operations to make heating oil for winter and diesel and jet fuel for shippers.
And, this year, refineries have been relatively problem free (knock on wood), as there haven't been hurricanes, or unexpected problems, explosions, etc. at refineries or pipelines, like there were last year.
Should conditions remain perfect for cheap prices, as they look right now, we could have one of the cheapest driving seasons we've seen in a very, very long time! Happy driving!
Image via wikipedia