ALBANY — Gas pump prices are headed downward, though in a zigzag pattern, and experts expect the trend to continue.
Meanwhile, metro Albany motorists are paying more for retail gas than they did a year ago, but still have the lowest pain at the pump of the eight Georgia metro areas that are included in the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report. Albany is below the state average, which is well below the national average for the cost of a gallon of gas.
GAS PUMP PRICES
These are the average prices for a gallon of regular-grade retail gas Monday morning in eight Georgia metro areas, the state and nation.
Albany — $3.46
Athens — $3.659
Atlanta — $3.633
Augusta — $3.59
Columbus — $3.485
Macon — $3.486
Savannah — $3.616
Valdosta — $3.524
Georgia — $3.592
National — $3.669
(Source: AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report)
“Fundamentals are putting downward pressure on the price of oil,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman, AAA _ The Auto Club Group. “Motorists could see prices fall at a faster rate in the coming weeks.”
Monday opened with Albany motorists looking at an average price of $3.46 for a gallon of regular-grade gas, less than a penny drop from last week, but 16.6 cents below where the average was a month ago. Year-to-year, motorists aren’t getting as good a break as they were in 2013, when the average cost in metro Albany was $3.338.
But that average was 13.2 cents better than what motorists around Georgia are seeing when they pull in to refuel. Georgia’s Monday average of $3.592 was 2.7 cents better than last week and more than a dime improvement from May’s $3.694. A year ago, however, state drivers were seeing an average of $3.448.
Nationally, drivers Monday were seeing higher prices Monday compared to last week. Monday’s average was $3.669, up 1.3 cents from last week and 6.4 cents from 2013. Still, the average was lower than May’s $3.687.
Jenkins said the price of oil fell for the first time in four months because of increased supplies, decreased consumer spending and easing geopolitical tensions.
Crude oil stockpiles reached their highest level since 1982, while consumer spending fell 0.3 percent in April, the most since September 2009. Russia withdrew the majority of its military forces from the Ukrainian border, helping to ease concerns in the market of a supply disruption, AAA said.
U.S. oil settled Monday at $102.47, down 24 cents from Friday's settlement, with May trading ranging from $99 to $105 a barrel, Reuters reported. A Reuters report Thursday on its survey of oil analysts indicated that U.S. oil would likely average around $98.70 a barrel the rest of the year, down from the $99.93 it has averaged in the first five months of 2014.
Despite issues in Libya oil production, experts say there are no signs of oil shortfalls anywhere globally.
Meanwhile, Russia-Ukraine controversy continues to simmer. Monday morning, Russia’s envoy to NATO accused the alliance of encouraging Ukraine to use force in its eastern region, which Russian officials contend is hampering chances of finding a peaceful solution to the dispute.
Russia also accused Ukrainian authorities on Monday of escalating violence against civilians in the rebel-held east, while at the same time offering Kiev a brief respite in their dispute over billions of dollars’ worth of unpaid gas bills.
Another factor that could cause at least temporary sharp spikes in pump prices are Atlantic hurricanes, which can disrupt supply if they hit the oil-producing region of the Gulf Coast. The U.S. has avoided direct hits to the Gulf oil-producing region for the past couple of years, and that string of good fortune may be poised to continue.
On Thursday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its predictions for the 2014 hurricane season, which opened Sunday and continues through Nov. 30. NOAA officials expect “near or below normal” tropical storm activities, projecting 8-13 tropical storms with 3-6 hurricanes. They believe that only one or two will be major hurricanes of at least Category 3 status. Category 3 hurricanes have sustained wind speeds of 111 mph or faster.
The lower forecast was based on cooler waters in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and expectations that El Niño — a climate pattern that creates strong wind shear, making it harder for storms to develop into hurricanes — will form this year, NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan told a news conference in New York.
Reuters contributed to this report.