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WASHINGTON, D.C. –- The steady decline of gas prices continued over the last week as the national average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline dropped to $3.50. This is 2 cents less expensive than one week ago, 14 cents less than one month ago and 32 cents less than one year ago, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report. The national average was last below $3.50 per gallon on Feb. 2.
Average prices fell for four consecutive days during the last seven, and for 50 of the previous 61 days. The national average is now 29 cents below the peak 2013 price to date of $3.79 per gallon, which occurred on Feb. 27. In 2011, the national average peaked at $3.98 on May 5, and in 2012 it peaked at $3.94 on April 5 and 6.
Most states saw further price drops during the last week, but drivers in nine states saw price increases: Hawaii, Alaska, California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Connecticut, Wisconsin and Washington, as well as Washington, D.C.
Analysts previously noted that the Midwest in particular would be vulnerable to price increases due to seasonal maintenance and the impending transition to summer-blend gasoline production. Power outages caused by spring storms were also a factor.
A fire and explosion at the Detroit Marathon Petroleum refinery on April 27 sparked concerns over potential disruption to regional fuel supply, but a statement released yesterday indicates that the incident is not expected to have an impact on production.
The lowest gas prices are predominately in the Southeast, due to extensive refinery production and lower taxes. All states in the continental U.S. are paying less than $4 per gallon, and only Hawaii continues to exceed that threshold.
The five states with the highest average prices are Hawaii ($4.34), Alaska ($3.97), Illinois ($3.91), California ($3.90) and Michigan ($3.79). The five states with the lowest average prices are South Carolina ($3.23), Tennessee ($3.26), Alabama ($3.27), Arkansas ($3.27) and Mississippi ($3.28).
In April, the national average gas price was $3.55 per gallon, the least-expensive monthly average since 2010, AAA reported in its latest Monthly Gas Price Report. Prices dropped approximately 13 cents per gallon during the month, or 3.5 percent, the largest monthly decline in 10 years. One year ago, the average gas price per gallon in April was $3.89, and in 2011 it was $3.79.
"Gas prices in much of the country have declined this spring because of lower oil costs, ample refinery production and continued weak demand," stated Avery Ash, AAA spokesman. "Gas prices have fallen faster and earlier than ever before for this time of year, and it is saving motorists millions of dollars per day in lower fuel costs."
Drivers with long-distance vacation plans over the summer are likely to be pleased, as average gas prices are projected to drop to between $3.20 and $3.40 per gallon by mid-summer, based on current trends.
"Families taking trips this summer can expect to pay lower gas prices than recent years as long as there are not any refinery problems or significant international news events," Ash added. "Lower prices should bring at least some relief to everyone going on vacation, but it is clear that millions of motorists will continue to believe that prices are too high for this time of year."
Half of adults in the United States consider gas prices to be "too high" when they reach $3.44 per gallon, as CSNews Online previously reported.