Drivers Save as Oil Prices Drop to Lowest Levels in a Decade

Michael Green Contact Tile(January 11, 2016) Gas prices continue to drop to multi-year lows, with today’s average price of $1.97 per gallon representing the cheapest average price at the pump since March 23, 2009. Gas prices have fallen for 55 of the past 66 days for a total savings of 26 cents per gallon and should remain relatively low because there is more than enough oil and gasoline around the world to meet demand.  Drivers are saving three cents per gallon on the week, five cents per gallon on the month and 17 cents per gallon versus this same date last year.

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California continues to weather ongoing refinery issues and remains the most expensive state for gasoline. The Golden State ranks third in the nation in refining capacity and refineries in the state typically operate at higher-than-average levels to meet demand. Disruptions in production generally lead to noticeable spikes in the price at the pump, which are often exacerbated due to the market’s relative isolation and specific fuel requirements. Consumers in the region will likely experience price swings in the near term due to both planned and unplanned maintenance, and this could increase the national average price of gas even as prices drop in other parts of the country.

As a result of these supply challenges, California ($2.86) remains the most expensive market for gas ahead of second-place Hawaii ($2.67). Regional neighbors Nevada ($2.49), Alaska ($2.47) and Washington ($2.42) round out the nation’s top five most expensive markets for retail gasoline. On the other end of the spectrum, Missouri ($1.66) and Oklahoma ($1.70) are the nation’s least expensive markets for retail gasoline. Motorists in 36 states are paying an average of less than $2 per gallon at the pump, and retail averages in 10 states are at or below the $1.75 per gallon benchmark.

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The vast majority of drivers are experiencing weekly savings at the pump. Discounts in the price of gas are less dramatic than in previous reports, and Oregon (-6 cents) is the only state where averages are down by more than a nickel per gallon week-over-week. Alaska is the only state where consumers are paying more to refuel their vehicles in comparison to one week ago, and retail averages moved higher by fractions of a penny over this same period.

Motorists in 45 states and Washington, D.C. are paying less to refuel their vehicles month-over-month. Drivers in Montana (-22 cents), North Dakota (-16 cents), Missouri (-15 cents) and South Dakota (-14 cents) are benefiting from the largest monthly savings in the price to refuel their vehicles. Averages are down by a dime or more per gallon in a total of 13 states, and drivers in 36 states and Washington, D.C. are benefiting from monthly discounts of a nickel or more per gallon. Consumers in five states are paying more at the pump versus one month ago, though California (+20 cents) and Alaska (+6 cents) are the only two states where prices are up by more than a nickel.

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Yearly savings are growing smaller because gas prices also were relatively low in January 2015, though the drivers in 46 states and Washington, D.C. are still saving because the cost of crude oil is lower today than a year ago. Hawaii (-75 cents) is the only state where prices are lower by  more than 50 cents per gallon versus this same date last year, and motorists in a total of 20 states and Washington, D.C. are savings a quarter or more per gallon at the pump. Consumers in four states: California (+25 cents), Idaho (+14 cents) Nevada (+14 cents) and Washington (+5 cents) are paying more for gas than a year ago.

Both oil benchmarks have posted losses for every day of trading in 2016, and as a result, closed out the week at lows unseen in more than a decade. Expectations that prices will continue to hover at multi-year lows are beginning to surface and market watchers are paying close attention to both China and the Middle East. Growth in China’s economy was once seen as a factor that could offset some of the market’s imbalance, though there is more uncertainty now that concerns over its economy continue to grow. Additionally, unlike historical trends where geopolitical instability in the Middle East has led to reductions in supply, the severing of diplomatic ties between Iran and other nations may lead to even more oil production within the region.

WTI closed out Friday’s formal trading session on the NYMEX down 11 cents, settling at $33.16 per barrel. This represents a loss of approximately 10 percent on the week and was the benchmark’s lowest settlement since February 9, 2004.

Motorists can find current gas prices along their route with the free AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. The app can also be used to map a route, find discounts, book a hotel and access AAA roadside assistance. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile.

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