Gas prices edged lower by a half cent during the past week, continuing a slow decline that began in January and bucking a recent trend in which pump prices have increased early in the year.
Thursday's national average for regular unleaded is $3.27 per gallon, 4 cents lower than a month ago and 28 cents less than on Feb. 6, 2013, according to the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report. However, AAA warned that prices could soon begin to climb again because of refinery maintenance and higher demand.
Cold weather reduced driving and demand for gas in January, and prices fell an average of 4 cents during the month, AAA said. That's the first time prices have declined in January since 2008. In contrast, prices increased by 13 cents in January 2013 and by 17 cents in January 2012.
Gas prices typically increase during the first quarter because scheduled refinery maintenance often begins in February. Refiners also have to start switching to federally mandated summer gas blends in many parts of the country to meet a May 1 deadline, which temporarily reduces the gas supply.
In 2013, the national average increased 49 cents from Jan. 1 and peaked at $3.79 on Feb. 27. In 2012; pump prices shot up 66 cents from Jan. 1 to a high of $3.94 on April 5, and in 2011 they soared 91 cents to $3.98 on May 5.
The lowest average prices Thursday were in Montana and Missouri at $3.03. Among other states with cheaper gas were Arkansas and Texas at $3.07 and South Carolina and Tennessee at $3.08.
Hawaii again had the highest prices in the land at $4.03, followed by Alaska and Connecticut at $3.63. New York was next at $3.62, and California's average was $3.59. Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia were the only other areas where prices stood at $3.50 or higher.
While gas prices have declined slightly this year, diesel fuel has gone the other direction, rising 3 cents per gallon the past week and 5 cents in the last month to $3.92. That is 8 cents less than the price of diesel a year ago.