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Gift of Holiday Gas Prices Under $2 Could Arrive Late

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CARS.COM — ‘Twas the week before Christmas, and all through the land, motorists were expecting the national average price for regular gas to fall below $2 — but like kids waiting for Santa, they were finding that it would take longer than they’d hoped. The national average for a gallon of regular gas was fractions of a penny above $2 on Thursday, according to the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report and GasBuddy.com, almost unchanged from a week ago.

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Both organizations, though, predicted the average could drop below $2 any day for the first time since March 25, 2009, as oil prices continue to fall because of a global glut of crude. U.S. oil was trading at less than $36 a barrel as of early Thursday, a five-year low. AAA put the average price for regular at $2.007 and GasBuddy had it at $2.005; both said gas averaged less than $2 a gallon in more than half of states. AAA listed 26 states under $2, while GasBuddy listed 30.

Though gas prices fell by small increments in a majority of states the past week, pump prices jumped up in the Great Lakes area due to refinery issues; the net result was that the national average remained flat. Prices had fallen faster in the Great Lakes area than in other parts of the country in recent weeks, but AAA said that over the past week prices increased by 4 cents in Ohio, 6 cents in Indiana, 7 cents in Michigan and 9 cents in Illinois.

Missouri had the cheapest gas with a statewide average of $1.76 a gallon for regular, followed by four states at $1.80 — Kansas, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee. GasBuddy listed stations in Kansas and Missouri that were selling regular at close to $1.50 a gallon. Hawaii had the most expensive gas at $2.74 for regular, followed by California at $2.65. Those were the only two states averaging more than $2.50 a gallon.

The national average for diesel fuel fell 4 cents the past week to $2.33, defying the typical seasonal pattern. GasBuddy said diesel prices usually increase this time of year because some of the heavy oil used for diesel is diverted to home heating oil. This year, though, unusually warm weather has reduced demand for heating oil, and diesel prices have continued to fall.

The national average for diesel is $1.05 less than a year ago. In comparison, regular gas is 49 cents cheaper than a year ago and at $2.51 premium gas is 40 cents cheaper. Two years ago, the average prices were $3.22 for regular, $3.57 for premium and $3.85 for diesel, according to AAA.

All of this is good news for motorists as they prepare for holiday travel. AAA projects that more than 90 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more by car between Dec. 23 and Jan. 3, and the organization anticipates that pump prices on New Year’s Day will be the lowest since 2009.

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