The trend downward trend of gas prices should continue at least into December, and pump prices could fall below $3 a gallon in many areas by the end of the year, travel services organization AAA said in its monthly report. AAA estimated that nearly 4 percent of gas stations across the nation, scattered among 26 states, were selling gas for less than $3 for a gallon of regular unleaded, and that “this number should increase significantly over the next couple of months.”
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The AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report on Thursday put the national average for regular unleaded at $3.33 a gallon, the lowest on this date in four years. AAA predicted that the national average could fall to between $3.10 and $3.20 by the end of the year, with several states slipping below $3. “If everything goes smoothly, buying gas for less than $3 per gallon should be refreshingly common in many parts of the country this winter,” AAA spokesman Avery Ash said in a statement.
AAA said that about 20 percent of gas stations in Missouri and South Carolina, and 30 percent in Oklahoma, were selling regular unleaded for less than $3. Gas prices typically decline after Labor Day, when the summer driving season ends and demand falls. In addition, refineries switch to less-expensive winter blends of gasoline. Last year’s lowest national average of $3.18, for example, was on Nov. 12.
AAA noted that a boom in North American oil production also has dramatically increased the domestic supply, insulating U.S. consumers from overseas conflicts and instability that previously would have caused price spikes at the pump. Instead, motorists in every state and Washington, D.C., are paying less for retail gasoline today than a month ago, AAA said, with the national average falling 10 cents during that period.
Some states have seen much bigger declines. The statewide average of $3.49 in Nevada is 23 cents lower than a month ago, and Indiana and Michigan motorists are paying 24 cents less. Ohio saw the biggest month-to-month dip of27 cents to $3.24. Indiana, Michigan and Ohio have experienced significant price fluctuations in recent weeks, at times spiking or dropping by double digits in a week’s time. The average price was less than $3.20 in a dozen states as of Thursday. South Carolina was the lowest at $3.09, followed by Mississippi and Missouri at $3.11 and Tennessee at $3.12.
Hawaii had the most-expensive gas at $4.20, followed by Alaska, $3.91; California, $3.69; Oregon, $3.67; and Washington, $3.66. Motorists in only three states — Georgia, Kentucky and Oregon — are paying higher prices now than a year ago, according to AAA’s data. Average prices are 3 to 6 cents a gallon higher in those states.