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NATIONAL REPORT -- U.S. motorists already have one thing to celebrate in this young new year. Gas prices most likely will average slightly less in 2014 as refineries continue to expand production capacity and increasingly rely on North American crude oil, according to the AAA Monthly Gas Price Report for December.
Increased refinery capacity and domestic oil production should provide a supply cushion that will help limit dramatic price spikes caused by supply and demand, AAA stated in the report.
"Gas prices should average slightly less in 2014 if everything goes as expected, but most drivers may not even notice because the difference could be relatively small," said AAA spokesperson Avery Ash. "Increased refinery capacity and domestic crude oil production should help provide a cushion in case something goes wrong, but there are no guarantees when it comes to gas prices. There will remain an outside chance of paying higher prices due to unexpected global events or significant economic growth."
In 2013, drivers paid an average of $3.49 per gallon for gas, making it the least expensive year to fill up since 2010. The 2013 average price was significantly lower than in 2012 when consumers paid an average of $3.60 per gallon, which was the most expensive ever. Gas prices in 2011 were the second highest on record at $3.51 per gallon, according to AAA.
"It was a relief to see gas prices decline in 2013 following record-breaking pain at the pump in recent years," said Ash. "Our hope is that prices will continue to fall as cars grow increasingly fuel efficient and refineries expand production to take advantage of the recent boom in North American crude oil."
For the second year in a row, South Carolina motorists enjoyed the cheapest gas prices in 2013 with an annual average of $3.24 per gallon. Rounding out the top five were: Mississippi ($3.28), Tennessee ($3.29), Arkansas ($3.29) and Missouri ($3.29). Across the country, 30 states ended the year with an annual average below $3.50 per gallon.
On the other end of the spectrum, Hawaii had the most expensive gas prices last year with an annual average of $4.24 per gallon. The next most expensive states were: Alaska ($3.91), California ($3.89), Connecticut ($3.80) and New York ($3.78).
Drilling down further, the cheapest annual metro average in 2013 was $3.15 per gallon in Casper, Wyo. The most expensive annual metro average was $4.42 per gallon in Wailuku, Hawaii, while the most expensive in the continental United States was Chicago at $4 per gallon.
Other interesting tidbits from the December AAA Monthly Gas Price Report include:
- The highest one-day national average in 2013 was $3.79 per gallon on Feb. 27. This was the earliest peak price on record, and the lowest peak since 2010. In 2012, prices peaked at $3.94 per gallon on April 5-6.
- The lowest one-day national average of last year was $3.18 per gallon on Nov. 12, which was the cheapest average since Feb. 22, 2011.
- The cheapest one-day state average of 2013 was $2.80 per gallon in Wyoming on Jan. 21, while the cheapest one-day metro average was $2.52 per gallon in Casper, Wyo., on Jan. 22.
- The most expensive one-day state average was $4.40 per gallon in Hawaii on March 10, while the most expensive one-day metro average was $4.64 in Wailuku, Hawaii, on June 18.
- In the continental U.S., the most expensive one-day state average was $4.24 in California on Feb. 27, and the most expensive one-day metro average was $4.60 in Chicago on June 12.
- The national average has remained above $3 per gallon for 1,105 consecutive days, yet averages in 12 states dropped below $3 per gallon at some point during 2013. The price of gas rose above $4 per gallon in 13 states at some point during the year.