Colorado Springs motorists have received an early Christmas present: gas under $3 a gallon.
The average price of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline Friday in Colorado Springs was $3.13, according to AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report. But The Gazette’s Gas Watch (gazette.com/gaswatch) showed 14 stations with prices just under $3 on Friday afternoon.
The average of $3.13 is down from $3.39 a month ago and $3.18 a year ago. The average price nationwide is $3.286. Local prices are the lowest since early March; the average hit its low point of $2.93 a gallon in early February and peaked at $3.87 a gallon in late April, stopping short of the Springs record high of $3.983 reached on July 17, 2008.
Gasoline prices nationwide have been declining for nearly two months after rising steadily in August and September.
“It was nasty,” Matt Bystedt said of the summer run-up in prices. “It’s down to being affordable,” he added as he filled up his Toyota Tacoma pickup during the noon hour Friday at a gas station on the east side of the Springs where regular unleaded was $2.99 a gallon.
Wave Dreher, an AAA spokeswoman in Denver, said gasoline prices typically drop after Labor Day through the end of the year and begin increasing by April as demand for gasoline rises in advance of the summer travel season, which traditionally begins around Memorial Day.
Gregg Laskoski, a senior petroleum analyst in Tampa, Fla., for GasBuddy.com, said gasoline prices have dropped sharply in recent weeks as more East Coast oil refineries ramp up capacity in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. He said operations at East Coast refineries have jumped from 67 percent of capacity before Thanksgiving to 79.9 percent on Wednesday.
“It isn’t surprising to see prices drop this time of year. It is a result of a very strong supply of gasoline right now — inventory levels are very healthy,” Laskoski said. “I would expect to see incremental declines through the end of the year with flat prices in January and increases starting in February, following the usual seasonal pattern.”
Despite the recent decline, Americans will spend a record amount on gasoline for the second straight year. The government estimates that gas averaged $3.63 a gallon this year, 10 cents above the record set a year ago.
The Associated Press contributed to this story. Contact Wayne Heilman: 636-0234 Twitter @wayneheilman
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