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Pump price slide continues

Tropical Storm Jerry is the 10th named storm in a hurricane season that has been unusually quiet for the United States. Meanwhile, a low pressure system south of Jamaica could be a weather producers later. (Graphic: National Hurricane Center)

Tropical Storm Jerry is the 10th named storm in a hurricane season that has been unusually quiet for the United States. Meanwhile, a low pressure system south of Jamaica could be a weather producers later. (Graphic: National Hurricane Center)

ALBANY — A group of four gas stations on the East Oglethorpe corridor from the Liberty Expressway to Mock Road continue to set the pace for prices at the gas pump, posting a city-low $3.069 Monday morning.

And after two Mondays of topping the AAA Fuel Gauge Report by opening the week with the state’s lowest average pump price, the Albany Metropolitan Statistical Area dropped to third best of the state’s eight metro areas. Metro Albany’s average pump price Monday morning was $3.166 for self-serve regular, which was 1.6 cents higher than last week.

In Georgia, cheaper average prices were at metro Macon at $3.148 and metro Augusta’s $3.152. The highest average price was on the coast, where metro Savannah buyers were paying an average of $3.297.

In Albany, motorists east of the river continued to get the best deals, with other stations in the $3.079-$3.109 range, according to a windshield survey. Near the river and westward, prices could be found in the $3.189-$3.209 range.

Officials with AAA The Auto group, which keeps tabs on the nation’s pump prices, said Monday that they expect the cost slide to continue, noting that U.S. crude continued to drop last week. On the NYMEX, crude settled Friday afternoon at $102.87, a $1.80 reduction from the previous week.

“At this time, every indicator points to lower gas prices,” AAA spokeswoman Jessica Brady said. “Southeast gas prices are about 20 to 25 cents less than they were a month ago and are well below last year’s averages at this time. Fuel prices will likely remain affordable and could reach close to $3 a gallon if prices continue to drop as forecast.”

In Georgia, the average for a gallon of regular has dropped just under 27 cents in the past month and it is 35.8 cents a gallon lower than a year ago. In Albany, the price average has improved by just over a quarter compared to last month and it is 42 cents per gallon cheaper than last year. Nationally, motorists are seeing an average drop of 19.4 cents from last month and 38.4 cent improvement from last year.

AAA officials cited numerous reasons for the decline — amicable talks with Iranian leadership that could result in removal of sanctions and a return of Iranian oil to the U.S. market, the government shutdown that many were expecting to start today, an easing of tensions with Syria and a well-stocked oil market. Crude inventories unexpectedly rose for the first time in a month by about 3 million barrels, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). The EIA initially forecast a 1 million barrel increase in supplies.

Another organization that keep close tabs on pump prices, GasBuddy.com, noted Monday that Sunday’s average retail gasoline prices in Georgia had fallen 3.7 cents per gallon in the past week. Its survey of 5,883 gas outlets in the state set Sunday’s average at $3.25 per gallon. The national average had fallen 5.8 cents per gallon in the last week to reach $3.43 Sunday, GasBuddy.com officials said.

Its surveys found gas prices in Georgia Sunday were 34.6 cents per gallon lower than the same day one year ago and were 27.9 cents per gallon lower than a month ago. The national average had decreased 18.8 cents per gallon during the last month and stood Sunday at 36.6 cents per gallon lower than Sept. 29, 2012.

“Gasoline prices continue to erode with 12 states that are seeing prices under $3 per gallon, and more states will join in on that over the next seven days,” GasBuddy.com Senior Petroleum Analyst Patrick DeHaan said. “While it’s generally good news that gasoline prices continue falling, many Americans don’t believe we’re likely to see national averages drop under $3 per gallon over the next year at the pump.”

GasBuddy surveyed more than 10,000 motorists and found that two-thirds of respondents believed that the national average would remain between $3 and $4 per gallon through 2014. But those surveyed were also optimistic that there would be no big price jumps. Of the respondents, 13 percent said they thought that prices nationally would exceed $4 per gallon, while 20 percent believed prices could dip below $3.

A wild card, of course, would be a tropical storm impacting the oil production area in the Gulf of Mexico. So far, the United States has seen an unusually quiet hurricane season. The 10th named storm, Tropical Storm Jerry, was in the mid-Atlantic Monday afternoon and heading westward, but there was no imminent danger of landfall on the U.S. mainland. A low pressure system a couple of hundred miles south-southwest of Jamaica was moving northwestward and had a 10 percent chance of developing into a tropical cyclone in four days and 30 percent chance in five days, according to the National Weather Service’s National Hurricane Center forecasts.