Gas pump prices ease downward over holiday

Motorists in Albany are paying nearly 15 cents more a gallon than they were in July 2013

ALBANY — The metro Albany area on Monday was again leading the state’s eight metro areas with the lowest average gas price as motorists got a bit of a break at the pump over the Independence Day holiday weekend.

And barring a hurricane bearing down on the oil production area of the Gulf or an interruption of Iraqi oil production, those lower prices might stick for a while, according to organizations that keep a close eye on U.S. fuel costs.

“The national average has started a nice downward trend, even as motorists were hitting the road for July 4,” GasBuddy.com Senior Petroleum Analyst Patrick DeHaan said Monday. “Yes, gas prices were some of the highest July 4 prices we’ve seen since 2008, they drifted downward in many communities as the holiday approached.

“Over the last week, the national average has fallen almost 4 cents/gallon — a trend that could continue with an absence of hurricanes or disruptions from Iraq. Gas prices over the next few weeks could fall more than 10 cents/gallon should the aforementioned situations remain quiet, which is most welcome as the peak of the summer driving season comes into focus.”

An increase of U.S. oil production also is a big influence on pushing the price down.

“The shale boom in Texas and North Dakota continues to spur domestic production growth,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman for AAA The Auto Club Group. “Not only does supply growth have a positive effect on the economy, but (it) can help reduce the price at the pump. Increasing domestic production puts a cap on oil prices, which keeps gas prices affordable.”

Jenkins said the downward pressure should continues.

“Domestic oil prices remain susceptible to geopolitical conflict, which in turn influences gas prices,” he said. “Fortunately, the price of oil is trending down as fears of a supply disruption in Iraq are dissipating and news that Libya will soon resume shipping oil at full capacity.”

“Lower oil prices means gasoline should continue drifting down this week,” continued Jenkins. “However, prices typically become volatile in the mid to late summer months as we move into hurricane season. Motorists will likely see prices spike if a hurricane moves into the Gulf of Mexico.”

On Monday afternoon, the National Hurricane Center showed a calm Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, noting that a tropical storm was not likely to develop at least through Wednesday afternoon. The season’s first Atlantic hurricane, Arthur, did not endanger the Gulf, instead skirting up the East Coast.

The increased oil production in the U.S. has allowed it to claim the No. 1 spot in oil production this year, edging past Saudi Arabia and Russia. AAA officials noted that Bank of America Corp. is projecting that America will maintain that role through the end of the year. U.S. oil closed Friday at $104.06 per barrel, down $1.68 last week.

According to AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report, the average cost in the United States for a gallon of regular-grade retail gasoline Monday was $3.655, down 2.1 cents from last week and a tenth of a cent cheaper than last month. Year-to-year, however, Monday’s average was 18.1 cents higher. GasBuddy’s daily survey had Monday’s U.S. average at $3.648, down 2.5 cents from the previous Monday.

Georgia saw a similar decline statewide. GasBuddy’s survey Monday had Georgia at $3.556 per gallon, down 3.6 cents from last week’s $3.592 and a penny cheaper than a month ago. But that average, while well below the national average, was 22.7 cents more than Georgia motorists were paying in 2013.

AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge had a similar finding for Georgia, pegging the average Monday at $3.558, down 1.5 cent from last week and just under a half-cent cheaper than last month. It showed Georgia motorists paying 22.3 cents more for a gallon of gas than they were at the same point last year, when motorists could gas up at $3.335 a gallon.

Metro Albany led the eight Georgia metro areas for lowest average pump price at $3.377 Monday, down 6.1 cents a gallon from the previous Monday and 2.8 cents below last month’s average. The average was up 14.8 cents per gallon from the $3.229 Albany motorists were paying on July 7, 2013.

The rest of the Georgia metro areas average gas prices Monday according to the Fuel Gauge Report were, in order from lowest to highest, Macon, $3.406; Columbus, $3.433; Valdosta, $3.444; Augusta, $3.485; Savannah, $3.523; Athens, $3.589, and Atlanta, $3.634.

Nationally, both fuel watch organizations had the cheapest statewide average in South Carolina ($3.371 for AAA, $3.357 for GasBuddy), while the highest was in Hawaii ($4.336 for GasBuddy and $4.335 for AAA). California had the highest average gas price of the contiguous states at $4.14 (AAA) and $4.129 (GasBuddy).