The sharp late-summer rise in gasoline prices appears to be over. Gas prices had jumped sharply across the nation in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, rising to an average $2.67 by last week. This time last year consumers were paying $2.18 a gallon.
But prices have flattened in the past few days and now average $2.64 a gallon. The return to normalcy comes at a time between Labor Day and Thanksgiving, when prices typically slide as consumer demand wanes.
Had it not been for Harvey, gas prices nationally would be averaging $2.20 to $2.25 a gallon, said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy, a website that tracks gas prices. “We’ll eventually get there, and there could soon be sub-$2-a-gallon prices in South Carolina, Oklahoma and other cheap pockets of the country,’’ he said.
In a report released earlier this week, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) anticipated that gas prices would fall to an average of $2.40 a gallon by October and $2.23 by year’s end.
Nationally, gas prices — currently at two-year highs — might be even higher if Hurricane Irma hadn’t crippled demand in Florida, the nation’s third-most populous state. Scores of gas stations in metropolitan areas — including Jacksonville, Tampa, Gainesville, Tallahassee, Orlando, Fort Myers and Miami — remain without fuel. Where there is gas available, Floridians are paying an average of $2.73 a gallon.
Consumers across the United States could get more of a break at the pump in 2018. The EIA forecasts that U.S. crude oil production will average 9.8 million barrels a day next year, surpassing 1970’s record of 9.6 million barrels. The higher crude oil production is, the lower the price will be at the pump.
“The era of cheap oil and cheap gas isn’t over,’’ said Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis at the Oil Price Information Service.