Pump prices not as pumped up?

Maybe we dodged that long-rumored $5 per gallon gas.


At least that’s what experts are predicting right now after the national average for a gallon of regular gasoline dropped — yes, dropped — six cents over the past two weeks and could go down another nickel next week, maybe a little more.

It’s still pretty pricey — the national average was $3.88 Friday, while in Georgia it was $3.79 a gallon. Metro Albany’s average Friday was $3.82, though you could find it at some stations for a tenth of a cent under $3.77. The best average in Georgia on Friday was in Augusta, where it was a relative bargain — a tenth of a cent below $3.71.

Still, that’s better than what seemed to be an inevitable $4 per gallon (it hit a national average of $3.94 before the slide) and the predictions of $5 per gallon that were appearing to be more likely by the day.

What’s caused the decline was the same thing that caused the rise — futures prices, which dropped 8 percent. That has some experts forecasting a national average below $3.80 a gallon in the next week.

It’s helped that Iran has (for now, anyway) reopened negotiations with Western nations over its nuclear ambitions, though that’s never anything to place a lot of faith in. It’s also helped that the United States, Saudi Arabia and Libya have stepped up production, and that two East Coast refineries in the United States that were expected to close have found buyers who plan to keep them open.

But the biggest impact may well be that American drivers have cut back on their gas consumption. Government officials say U.S. motorists have cut back 6 percent in demand compared to this time last year.

Whether the fall will continue or something will happen — a hurricane in the Gulf, Iranian officials balking at negotiations, a sudden surge in consumption — to drive it back up is anyone’s guess.

But for now, at least, it’s headed in the right direction.