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Gasoline prices get cheaper ahead of summer driving

Gasoline prices get cheaper ahead of summer driving
Gasoline prices, which have been sliding for several weeks, are expected to fall even more as drivers hit the road this summer. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Hold up on buying gasoline for a week, and the price could drop by an average of 16 cents a gallon nationwide. If you fill up a Ford Expedition, that’s a nifty $5.36 in savings.

Gasoline prices have been sliding steadily for several weeks, and could get even cheaper as crude prices fall and the U.S. moves into the summer driving season.

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Last year at this time, the average price nationally for regular gas at the pump was $2.92 a gallon, according to AAA. Now, after an 18% drop in crude oil prices in New York trading, the average sits at $2.75 at a time of year when the price usually rises in anticipation of more drivers on the road.

“We did see a 7-cent decline in the national gas price last week, and I think you can look for another decline this week, so motorists would not be advised to be so fast to fill their tanks,” said Patrick DeHaan, a GasBuddy.com analyst. “I could see the national average down around $2.60 a gallon or even $2.59 a gallon this week.”

That low a price would be an 11.3% drop from a year earlier, getting close to the size of the decline in crude prices over the same period. Still, some are paying much more than the average. While drivers in parts of Texas are paying about $2 a gallon, motorists in parts of Northern California are forking over more than double that.

The gap between Houston and San Francisco prices was more than $1.50 a gallon on Sunday, according to AAA data. California prices are normally higher than in Texas, but this year fires and other breakdowns at oil refineries in the Golden State sent prices rocketing higher.

California’s gasoline supplies have recovered recently, so prices should head lower, AAA said. The state average price for a gallon of regular gasoline was $3.88 on Monday, down 6.9 cents in the last week, AAA’s survey found.

One key determiner to watch for, according to the Auto Club: crude prices, which account for nearly 60% of the pump price. If the price of oil jumps globally as a result of output cuts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, and U.S. drillers export more to take advantage of that, the price of gasoline in the U.S. could rise as well, according to the AAA report.

Oil prices declined Monday, with the benchmark U.S. West Texas crude falling 1.4% to settle at $53.26 a barrel and international benchmark Brent crude oil closing 1.6% lower at $62.29 a barrel.

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