Consumers likely will get a bit of a break this summer as gasoline prices are expected to average slightly less than last year, according to a report released Tuesday by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The government forecast said the national fuel price is likely to average about $3.57 during the heavy driving season of April through September, down about 3.5 cents from last summer. The report also projected an annual average of $3.45 in 2014 and $3.37 in 2015. The numbers are down from an annual average of $3.51 last year.
Oklahoma prices typically run about 20 cents to 30 cents less than the national average.
Tuesday’s projections are in line with forecasts in recent weeks by AAA and GasBuddy.com.
Part of the reason for the slightly lower average summer price projection is that the annual price spike consumers have faced around Memorial Day is expected to be much lower this year — if it happens at all.
“If things go fairly well — meaning we don’t have any major supply backups because of refinery problems or weather — it’s very possible that we may be seeing the peak fairly early this year,” GasBuddy analyst Gregg Laskoski said.
The jump generally occurs as refiners shut down for at least two weeks every spring as they prepare to make cleaner-burning and more expensive summer-blend fuels. The process started much earlier this year. While many of the country’s refineries have completed the work, about a dozen refineries along the Gulf Coast are still undergoing maintenance.
The government report also attributed lower prices in part to increased domestic oil production and new and expanded pipelines that have helped move oil from storage in Cushing to refiners along the Gulf Coast. Inventories in Cushing dropped to 27 million barrels by the end of March, marking the lowest level since November 2009, the report stated.
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Consumers are creatures of habit. They’re going to travel and do summer vacation regardless of where gas prices are. Only a small percentage of consumers would say gas prices can be a deal breaker for them.”