CARS.COM — With the Labor Day weekend and summer driving season in the rearview mirror, gas prices are declining again, and analysts expect them to continue to fall in the coming weeks. The national average for regular gas fell 4 cents the past week to $2.18 a gallon, according to the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report and GasBuddy.com, reversing a trend that saw prices rise during much of August. The average price of premium gas was $2.69, down 2 cents a gallon from a week ago, and for diesel fuel it was $2.36, down a penny.
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Pump prices are expected to fall for a variety of reasons. Demand for gas declines after Labor Day, when refiners also switch to winter gasoline blends that are cheaper to produce. In addition, U.S. crude oil prices have settled below $50 a barrel after topping that level briefly in August. Hurricane Hermine also came and went without damaging Gulf Coast refineries.
GasBuddy on Thursday listed seven states where the average price of regular gas was less than $2 a gallon, and analyst Patrick DeHaan predicted the national average could fall below $2 by Halloween. DeHaan said nearly 25 percent of U.S. gas stations already are selling gas at less than $2.
“The only possible wrench could be a major hurricane that takes aim for the Gulf of Mexico, where many oil rigs and refiners are located, or a sudden cut in oil output from OPEC,” DeHaan wrote in a blog post. “Diesel, however, could see modest increases in the weeks and months ahead as farmers begin harvesting crops, boosting demand for the fuel of agriculture.”
He predicted that diesel would climb 10 to 25 cents by the end of October and that the average price of regular gas would fall by 10 to 25 cents.
Gas prices fell throughout most of the country the past week, with the biggest declines in the central states. Regular fell by 8 cents in Illinois and Kentucky, 10 cents in Ohio, 11 cents in Michigan and 13 cents in Indiana, according to AAA. South Carolina had the lowest statewide average for regular Thursday at $1.93, followed by Alabama at $1.96 and Mississippi at $1.98. Average prices remained above $2.50 in four states: Alaska, $2.57; Washington, $2.65; California, $2.69; and Hawaii, $2.75. Prices rose by a penny or two in those states.