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WASHINGTON, D.C. –- Gasoline prices could fall 10 cents to 20 cents per gallon by the end of October as people drive less and refineries begin producing less-expensive winter-blend gasoline, according to AAA's latest monthly gas price report.
"The big crunch in summer travel is done and most of us can look forward to lower gas prices during the next few months," stated AAA spokesman Avery Ash. "If we can get through September without any major refinery or overseas problems, we should see more gas stations drop below $3 per gallon this fall."
Although dwindling supplies of summer-blend gasoline occasionally leads to short-term localized price increases around the middle of September, overall prices should go down as refineries in many parts of the country begin selling winter-blend gas as of Sept. 15. In 2013, national average gas prices fell by 19 cents per gallon in September, and the price of gas in September declined in four of the past five years at an average of 8 cents per gallon.
The national average gas price during the recently ended summer driving season was $3.58 per gallon, the fourth most expensive on record and only slightly below the 2013 average, AAA said. Recent summer driving season averages were $3.58 (2013), $3.55 (2012), $3.65 (2011), $2.73 (2010), $2.59 (2009) and $3.95 (2008).
"It was truly a summer of contrasts with consumers paying the highest seasonal prices in years to begin the summer, but ending with the lowest prices since 2010," Ash said. "Many drivers lucked out, with it costing significantly less to fill up the car during the busiest part of the summer."
In August, gas prices averaged $3.46 per gallon, the least expensive price for the month since 2010. The averages for August in recent years were $3.57 (2013), $3.69 (2012) and $3.62 (2011).
Most regions of the United States saw gas prices fall during the second half of the summer, bringing the national average price down approximately 25 cents per gallon since June 28. Prices increased unexpectedly in June due to intensified rebel attacks in Iraq, but they stabilized as the threat to Iraqi oil production diminished.
The current national average gas price is $3.43 per gallon, marking the lowest price drivers have paid since late February. This is approximately 16 cents less than one year ago and the lowest average for Sept. 4 since 2010. The national average price has remained under $3.50 per gallon for 31 consecutive days.
The five states paying the highest average prices are Hawaii ($4.28), Alaska ($4.02), Washington ($3.88), Oregon ($3.87) and California ($3.84), while the five states paying the lowest average prices are South Carolina ($3.17), Mississippi ($3.18), Virginia ($3.18), Alabama ($3.20) and Tennessee ($3.21).
Approximately one-fourth of U.S. gas stations are selling fuel for less than $3.25 per gallon today, while nearly seven in 10 are selling fuel for less than $3.50 per gallon. The most common price in the U.S. is $3.299 per gallon.
In general, 2014 gas prices have averaged less than recent years due to an increase in domestic petroleum, according to AAA. The national average price for the first eight months of the year was $3.52 per gallon, which is the lowest average through the same period since 2010. In 2013, the January-August national average was $3.57 per gallon.