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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- With the unofficial start of summer only three weeks away, there is some good news on the gas price front. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) has downgraded its forecasted price at the pump for the summer driving season.
According to the EIA's Short-Term Energy Outlook, released yesterday, the agency projects regular gasoline will average $3.79 per gallon during the summer season, which stretches from April through September. That number is only 8 cents more than last year's summer average of $3.71.
The new estimate is also lower that the EIA's initial estimate of $3.95 and below 2008's record average of $3.80, the Associated Press reported.
For full-year 2012, EIA's outlook projects regular gasoline retail prices will hit an average of $3.71, primarily driven by higher crude oil costs. By comparison, regular-grade gasoline retail prices averaged $3.53 per gallon in 2011. And while the price is expected to jump 20 cents from 2011 to 2012, the increase is still better than the 2010-to-2011 jump when prices rose 74 cents per gallon, according to EIA.
The organization has also lowered its forecast for diesel fuel retail prices. That price averaged $3.84 per gallon in 2011 and will average $4.06 per gallon in 2012, down 9 cents per gallon from last month's outlook. In 2013, diesel fuel retail prices are projected to decline to $4.03 per gallon, 8 cents per gallon lower than the previous outlook.
Summer price estimates below $4 a gallon for regular gas is good news considering that just a few months ago, many analysts were predicting U.S. motorists could see $5 a gallon prices at the pump this summer.
"It's almost like a tax cut," Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, told the AP.
EIA's new prediction means that motorists will spend about $10.7 billion less on gasoline than previously anticipated.
Prices are already starting to ease up at the pump. According to AAA's Fuel Gauge Report, the current average price is $3.75 a gallon, down from $3.80 a week ago and $3.92 a month ago. This time last year, retail gas prices hit $3.960 a gallon.