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Motorists seeing welcome break at the pump

Albany resident Tammy fills her car with gasoline Tuesday at Homerun Foods, located at 309 E. Oglethorpe Blvd. in Albany. (laura.williams@albanyherald.com)

Albany resident Tammy fills her car with gasoline Tuesday at Homerun Foods, located at 309 E. Oglethorpe Blvd. in Albany. (laura.williams@albanyherald.com)

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Gasoline prices are advertised at Homerun Foods on 309 E. Oglethorpe Blvd. in Albany on Tuesday. (laura.williams@albanyherald.com)

ALBANY — Whether it’ll hold through Labor Day weekend, which is usually a heavily traveled holiday, is anyone’s guess, but lately gas pump prices have been a little less burdensome on the wallet.

Two major organizations that keep an eye on prices at the pump — AAA Auto Club Group and GasBuddy — say the cost of fueling up is headed in the right direction. In Albany on Monday, a gallon of regular self-service gas could be found as cheap as $3.189 a gallon.

In fact, according to AAA Auto Club Group’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report, metro Albany had the cheapest average price for a gallon of self-service regular-grade gas in Georgia on Monday at $3.28 per gallon. The Augusta area was a close second at $3.288.

“Motorists witnessed a lot of price volatility at the pump since the start of the year, but so far the national average has not surpassed its high of $3.79 on Feb. 27,” said Jessica Brady, AAA spokeswoman. “Although the year isn’t over, gas prices look like they’re starting to move on a downward trend that could continue into the upcoming holiday weekend, barring a significant storm or violence in the Mideast that disrupts supply.”

GasBuddy, which surveys 5,883 gas outlets in Georgia, reported Monday that the average retail gasoline prices in the state had fallen 5.5 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $3.44 per gallon on Sunday. That’s below a national average of $3.58, which was the result of a nickle a gallon decline nationwide. In Anderson, S.C., gas dropped to $2.99 at some stations.

“Prices finally have dropped under their year-ago values, just in time for those last-minute vacations before school starts,” GasBuddy.com Senior Petroleum Analyst Patrick DeHaan said Monday. “The rest of the summer will likely see prices flirting with where they stand today, but more significant relief will arrive around mid-September, when prices nationally could be 10-25 cents per gallon lower than where they are today.”

AAA officials said that in the Southeast, motorists are seeing average prices that are 11 cents cheaper than last August.

AAA’s survey set the national average price of regular gasoline at $3.56, 6 cents less than last week. By state in the Southeast, Florida had an average of $3.53 and Tennessee was $3.34, both down a nickel from last week. Georgia’s average of $3.46 was a 3-cent decrease from Aug. 7.

GasBuddy officials said Sunday gas prices in Georgia were were a 12.9-cent improvement over Aug. 14, 2012, and unchanged from last month. The national average, GasBuddy says, decreased 1.2 cents per gallon during the last month and stands 9.1 cents per gallon lower than one year ago.

Crude oil was still well over the $100 per barrel mark Monday. U.S. crude dropped 14 cents to hit $105.83 a barrel while Brent Crude rose 30 cents to $108.52 after falling below $108 on Friday. The strong crude prices are seen as responses to indications that China’s slowdown is halting, political instability in Middle east oil-producing regions and signs that the European Union is shaking off at least some of its economic doldrums.

Still, AAA officials said, the retail gas price decline could last into Labor Day weekend. U.S. refinery output jumped as more refineries went back online and the increased gasoline supply has led to lower wholesale and retail prices, AAA said. The nation’s gas stockpiles rose by 135,000 barrels in the first week of August to 224 million barrels, the most since 1990 according the Energy Information Administration.