As oil prices fell, so did the cost of gasoline in many parts of the country the past week, with the national average for a gallon of regular unleaded dropping 3 cents to $3.64, according to the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report on Thursday. AAA noted that, although conflict in Iraq continues to impact oil prices, it hasn't disrupted the supply of crude oil from OPEC's second-largest oil-producing country, reducing fears of shortages. Oil was trading at around $102 per barrel Thursday, some $5 less than the 52-week high of $107.50 set on June 25.
If recent history is a guide, however, prices could start to rise again later this month or in August, when summer driving and demand for gas peak. That was the pattern the previous three years: Pump prices fell in early July and rose in the second half of the month.
Pump prices fell in a majority of states the past week, with the biggest declines in the Great Lakes area. The statewide average for regular unleaded gas fell 7 cents in Illinois to $3.75, 8 cents in Ohio to $3.52, 10 cents in Indiana to $3.57 and 11 cents in Michigan to $3.72. Diesel fuel prices dipped by a penny, and now stand at a national average of $3.89.
The national average for regular unleaded gas is 14 cents higher than a year ago, so motorists in most states are still paying more for gas today than they were last year, significantly more in some areas. South Carolina, for example, has the lowest statewide average for regular unleaded, at $3.36, but that is 19 cents higher than a year ago. The average price also is 19 cents higher in Connecticut, at $3.98, and in Washington, D.C., at $3.91. In the Atlanta area, the $3.61 average is 21 cents higher than on July 10, 2013.
Californians continue to pay the most for gas among the 48 continental states, with a statewide average of $4.13. The average pump price of $4.23 in San Francisco is second only to Honolulu's $4.32 among major metropolitan areas.
Price comparisons to a year ago vary widely by region. The average in San Francisco is 17 cents higher than at this time last year, but recent declines in the Chicago area have lowered prices to a $3.88 average — the same as a year ago. Hawaii had the highest average statewide price, at $4.34, followed by Alaska's $4.22. Washington was the only other state with a $4-plus average, unchanged from a week ago, at $4.01. After South Carolina, Alabama had the next-cheapest gas at $3.38, followed by Mississippi, $3.41, and Tennessee, $3.42.