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Two-month decline in gas prices slows down

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Posted: Wednesday, November 28, 2012 1:00 am

PORTLAND - Earlier this fall, the Oregon average for regular unleaded was as much as 30 cents a gallon more than the national average. But that gap is shrinking and is now less than six cents.

"The national average gains half a cent this week to $3.42 while Oregon’s average loses four cents to $3.48. The national average for regular unleaded remains at its lowest point since mid-July, while Oregon’s is at its lowest point since late January,” said Marie Dodds, AAA Oregon/Idaho public affairs director. “Oregon’s current price is nearly 13 cents a gallon lower than it was a year ago. But the national average continues the streak of daily record prices for the calendar day that began on August 20. In fact, the national average on Thanksgiving was the highest ever for the holiday—11 cents higher than the previous record set last year."

Over the last week, prices in 27 states have declined, led by Alaska (- 8 cents per gallon). Drivers in Kentucky (+9 cents) have seen the greatest price increases. Hawaii has the highest average at $4.07, and it remains the only state with an average price higher than $4 per gallon.

The national average price at the pump peaked this summer at $3.87 on September 14, the day before much of the U.S. began the transition to winter-blend gasoline. Since that day, gas prices have fallen steadily (61 of 74 days) and are now 45 cents below the recent peak. This decline was the product of the changeover to winter-blend fuel, which is less expensive to produce; cheaper crude oil prices; lower demand; and economic concerns. Prices fell nearly nine cents during the second half of September and dropped more than 26 cents in October. However, the national average has declined less than a dime to-date in November. The reasons for this slowing decline are regional disruptions to distribution in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, higher crude oil prices, and bullish U.S. economic news.

Oregon’s average peaked for the year on June 1 at $4.27 a gallon, just shy of the record high of $4.29 set on July 3, 2008. This fall, pump prices skyrocketed in California with a 50-cent surge the first week of October to an all-time high of $4.67 a gallon. The jump was triggered by a power outage at the Exxon Mobile refinery in Torrance. The refinery went offline when California was near five-year lows in fuel supplies, and sent gas prices higher along the entire West Coast. Oregon’s average climbed to a recent peak of $4.08 in mid-October.

Following Hurricane Sandy, electrical outages and infrastructure damage disrupted regional distribution networks. While these issues were slowly resolved, prices in impacted areas were pressured temporarily higher, offsetting falling prices in other regions. Prices in many affected areas have now moved lower.

Rising crude oil prices are putting upward pressure on pump prices. Oil prices rose as high as $99 per barrel in September, before falling to less than $85 earlier this month. From that low, crude prices increased to more than $89 per barrel to begin last week. Additionally, recent bullish economic news, including some positive signals in Washington, D.C. regarding efforts to address the looming U.S. “fiscal cliff,” have seen commodities prices, including gasoline, move higher. A stronger economy would be expected to demand more gasoline, which puts upward pressure on prices.

At the close of Monday’s formal trading on the NYMEX, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil was down 54 cents on the day to settle at $87.74 per barrel. Today crude is trading around $87. Crude prices are up about two percent in the last month.

Drivers in all states and the District of Columbia continue to pay more than $3 per gallon at the pump; but only one state, Hawaii, still has an average price at or above $4 a gallon, same as last week. Hawaii has the most expensive gas in the country for the sixth consecutive week. For the third week in a row, both Oregon and Washington remain out of the ten most expensive states, but California remains in the top five. Hawaii is most expensive at $4.07, followed by New York at $3.90, Alaska at $3.88, Connecticut at $3.82 and California at $3.74 (down four cents and fifth for the third consecutive week). Idaho is 11th down from 10th at $3.58 (down a nickel). Washington is 22nd down from 20th last week at $3.48 (down three cents). Oregon is 23rd down from 18th last week at $3.48 (down four cents). For the fourth week in a row, Missouri has the cheapest gas in the nation at $3.15 a gallon (up seven cents).

Diesel prices are up or down slightly, depending on the market. The national average adds two cents to $4.02 while Oregon’s average drops two cents to $4.07. Diesel is at or above $4 a gallon in 31 states (including the District of Columbia), same as last week. Hawaii is most expensive at $4.90, followed by New York at $4.38, Connecticut at $4.34 Alaska at $4.34, and California at $4.20 (down two cents and fifth for the fifth consecutive week). Washington is 13th down from eighth last week at $4.15 (down a penny). Oregon is 20th down from 18th last week. Idaho is 21st down from 13th last week at $4.05 (down seven cents). A year ago, the national average for diesel was $3.97 and Oregon's was $4.07 (same as the current average).

Fuel prices are updated daily at AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge at To check fuel prices across Oregon and the nation, go to the AAA Fuel Price Finder at AAA Oregon/Idaho provides more than 745,000 members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services, and is an affiliate of AAA National, serving more than 52 million motorists in North America.

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