GAS PRICE PHOTO 1

Gas prices averaged about $2.40 a gallon Monday in the Pikes Peak region, and were lower in some parts of the area, such as this 8th Street convenience store on Colorado Springs' west side. Gas costs have dropped to their lowest level in nearly a year, in part, because oil prices have fallen in response to fears over the deadly coronavirus, according to GasBuddy.com. RICH LADEN, THE GAZETTE

Gas prices in the Pikes Peak region have fallen to their lowest level in nearly a year, and some energy experts say global concerns about the deadly coronavirus are playing a role in driving down prices at the pump.

Colorado Springs-area gas prices averaged $2.40 for a gallon of regular unleaded Monday afternoon, down nearly 6 cents from last week and the cheapest since late March, according to GasBuddy.com, the online service that tracks fuel prices nationwide.

While $2.40 was the average, lower gas prices could be found in several areas around town and in outlying areas such as Woodland Park, west of Colorado Springs.

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Seasonal factors are one reason gas costs have fallen, said Patrick DeHaan, GasBuddy's head of petroleum analysis. Prices typically drop during the first six weeks of the new year as fewer people travel and demand for gas cools during the dog days of winter, he said. 

But the coronavirus is having an additional impact, DeHaan said.

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Fears that China and other nations will experience an economic downturn because of the virus, and therefore slash their demand for oil, have sent crude prices tumbling, DeHaan said. And falling oil prices are translating into lower pump prices.

"It's certainly being enhanced by concerns over the cornanvirus slowing demand in China and there's certainly fears that the coronavirus would spread to other countries and do something similar to demand in those areas," DeHaan said.

The decline in crude price and gas costs should continue for at least another week, he said.

By late February, when demand for gas is low, refineries usually begin to perform maintenance in preparation for switching over to higher-priced summer fuels, DeHaan said. Gas prices then rise after the maintenance is completed in several weeks, he said.

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This year, with fears that the coronavirus is undermining oil prices, the spring increase in gas prices might be delayed — though not forever, DeHaan saud.

"Almost regardless of what happens with the coronavirus, we should start to see some uptick (in gas prices) happening by mid-March," he said. "It may delay the increases that usually start shortly after Valentine's Day ... At latest, we will have started to see prices go up by mid-March."

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