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No gas price spike expected for Labor Day holiday period

ALBANY — Average gas pump prices in metro Albany were below state and national averages Monday, with national organizations that keep an eye on price fluctuations predicting the Labor Day weekend will be relatively easy on motorists’ wallets compared to last year.

The average for a gallon on self-serve regular gas in Albany Monday morning was $3.371, according to AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report. The cheapest observed price Monday was $3.269 at an East Albany station.

That average placed Albany No. 4 among Georgia’s eight metro areas, according to the Fuel Gauge Report. The Augusta area came in cheapest to open the week at $3.279, followed by Macon at $3.355 and Columbus at $3.359. The most expensive average was found in metro Atlanta — $3.519.

On Aug. 26, 2012, a gallon of gas averaged $3.632 in Albany, and the prices was just over 8 cents a gallon higher on July 26. For the state, Georgia motorists on Monday saw an average pump price of $3.459, up just over 2 cents from a week ago but down significantly from the $3.70 average motorists saw Aug. 26, 2012.

Nationally, the average cost was $3.541 on Monday, up slightly from the $3.538 mark a week ago and well below the $3.748 Americans were paying Aug. 26, 2012.

AAA officials say they don’t expect the holiday weekend pump prices to approach the national average of $3.83 that motorists saw last Labor Day weekend. AAA officials expect more than 34 million people to travel over the holiday period, which the organization defines as Thursday through Monday.

Motorists in the Southeast pay some of the lowest prices in the nation, they said.

“At this point, it looks like motorists will enjoy relatively low gas prices during the Labor Day weekend,” said Jessica Brady, AAA spokeswoman. “Last year during this time, Tropical Storm Isaac drove gas prices close to $4 a gallon after Gulf refineries were forced to shut down.”

The cost for a barrel of oil closed last Friday at $106.42 on the NYMEX — $1.04 less than the week prior.

Another organization that watches pump fluctuations, GasBuddy.com, said Sunday that its survey of 5,883 gas outlets in Georgia showed average retail gas prices had risen 2.2 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $3.45 per gallon on Saturday. During the same period, the national average fell 0.4 cents per gallon $3.57, according to gasoline price website.

GasBuddy said prices Saturday in Georgia were 24.9 cents per gallon lower than the same day one year ago and were 5.5 cents per gallon lower than a month ago. The national average, it said, decreased 9.5 cents per gallon during the last month and stands 16.6 cents per gallon lower than this day one year ago.

“As driving season works closes out, the national average has been remarkably quiet, so far, but that may change as gasoline inventories declined a sizable about last week,” GasBuddy.com Senior Petroleum Analyst Patrick DeHaan said. “The Energy Information Administration in its weekly report issued last Wednesday highlighted one of the largest drops in gasoline inventories this year. That was likely a culprit for a late-week rally in gasoline futures and spot prices, which in turn may mean that as this week wears on, gasoline prices could start showing some upward movement.

“Any increases may be limited, however, by the impending end of summer driving season.”