The national average for a gallon of regular unleaded gas fell by a penny the past week, according to Thursday's AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report, but rising oil prices could dampen expectations for continued price declines at the pump this summer. Gas prices typically fall this time of year, but crude oil was trading at its highest price since early March, AAA said reported in its weekly assessment of gas trends. Oil was selling at nearly $106 per a barrel Thursday, about $18 more than the price in late June 2013.
"For the past three years, the national average has steadily declined to start the summer driving season," AAA said in a statement. "Although early data for summer 2014 is moving in this direction, it is too soon to say to what extent this pattern will persist for a fourth year."
The national average for regular unleaded was $3.65, unchanged from a month ago and 2 cents higher than a year ago. Diesel fuel also declined by a penny the past week, to $3.90. That is 4 cents lower than a month ago and 5 cents higher than on June 12, 2013.
Though the national average is unchanged from a month ago, motorists in different parts of the country have seen more fluctuation at the pump. Alabama's average of $3.41 for regular unleaded, for example, is 12 cents lower than a month ago, but Montana's $3.52 average is 12 cents higher. The average price jumped 6 cents the past week in Montana.
In the Great lakes area, where gas spiked by double digits the previous week, pump prices eased a little in many places. The average price fell 3 cents in Madison, Wis., to $3.63, 6 cents in Cincinnati to $3.85 and 8 cents in Cleveland to $3.81.
Many drivers may be grousing about the price of gas, but AAA said that in several Midwestern states they are paying a lot less than they were a year ago. In Wisconsin, the $3.72 average is 28 cents lower than a year ago, and the price is 29 cents lower in Illinois, Indiana and Michigan. In North Dakota, gas is 33 cents lower than a year ago at $3.59. In contrast, the $3.80 average in Nevada is 20 cents higher than a year ago, and the $3.73 average in Pennsylvania is 24 cents higher. Californians and New Yorkers are paying 13 cents more per gallon than at this time last year.
California's average price remained second-highest behind Hawaii's $4.36. Alaska was next at $4.05, followed by Connecticut and Washington state at $3.92, and Oregon at $3.91. The least-expensive statewide averages were $3.39 in Arkansas and Mississippi, and $3.41 in Alabama, Louisiana and South Carolina.