WEST JEFFERSON-At least three local gas stations broke through the $2 per gallon mark last week and experts said they expect prices to tumble even more in the latter half of the year.
Quality Plus, Ingles and Murphy USA in West Jefferson were all advertising regular unleaded for $1.99 per gallon as early as Sept. 18, and many other stations around Ashe County are charging motorists just a nickel more per gallon.
That beats the state and national average price at the pump, according to GasBuddy.com
“I can honestly say I never expected to see gas prices fall below $2 ever again,” Ashe County Commissioner Larry Rhodes said. “It’s just a little thing, a few cents, but I think it feels like a big deal to drivers.”
But these might not be the cheapest prices we’ll see this year, according to GasBuddy.com Senior Petroleum Analyst Patrick Dehaan. His company’s 2015 year end forecast, issued earlier this summer, has the average nationwide price per gallon for regular unleaded reaching $2 in late fall. Right now it’s hovering just under $2.30 per gallon.
“But by and large that trend is going to remain downward,” Dehaan said. “If anything, we feel that forecast was fairly conservative and prices could fall a little further, and faster, than we first thought.”
So why are we catching a break at the pump right now? Gregg Laskoski, a GasBuddy.com senior petroleum analyst, said last month crude oil prices – the most important factor affecting the price you pay per gallon – is near its lowest price in years, due to surging supplies and slowing demand.
Laskoski said technology, including the sometimes controversial “fracking” techniques, has allowed oil companies to pull oil from more places domestically than ever before. Those improvements mean U.S. oil production is some 91 percent higher than it was in 2008.
And foreign producers like OPEC continue to add to world crude oil supplies at a time when sluggish economies in Europe and China mean consumer demand for oil is lower than expected, Laskoski said.
In the past month, oil refineries have also made the switch to winter blend gasoline, Laskoski said – designed to help cars run properly when engines are cold – which is cheaper to produce than summer blend auto fuel.
Reach Adam Orr at 336-846-7164 or Twitter.com/AdamROrr