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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Last week, drivers paid the lowest average gas prices for the Christmas holiday since 2009, and pump prices continue to hover around the benchmark of $2 for a gallon of regular gas, according to the latest AAA Fuel Gauge Report.
Additionally, retail averages fell for 45 of the past 52 days, and while prices rose by fractions of a penny week-over-week, the national average is $1.999 as of Dec. 28., marking the lowest price for the date since the Great Recession. Monthly and yearly discounts persist, and consumers are saving five cents per gallon compared to one month ago and 30 cents per gallon compared to one year ago.
AAA expects the national average to continue to decline heading into 2016, as gas prices typically fall during this time of year due to gasoline supply outpacing demand. Despite this seasonal trend, prices on the West Coast have increased following supply issues in California. ExxonMobil's refinery in Torrance, Calif., went offline unexpectedly, causing prices to spike, and unexpected refinery maintenance has prevented production from reaching normal levels.
Other problems also tightened supply in the region and kept prices unusually high, according to AAA. This could keep the national average higher than it otherwise would be and contribute to volatility as the fourth quarter of 2015 ends.
Thirty-two states have average gas prices below $2 per gallon, with Missouri ($1.70) and Kansas ($1.75) paying the lowest prices. Another 16 states have averages below $1.90 per gallon. California ($2.83) and Hawaii ($2.69) are the most expensive gasoline markets, with California's refinery issues spreading to its neighbors and bringing Nevada ($2.51), Washington ($2.46) and Alaska ($2.42) into the top five most expensive states.
Weekly price comparisons reflects this regional volatility, AAA said, and state averages have moved by more than a nickel per gallon in both directions. Pump prices are up week-over-week in 11 states, with California (11 cents), Ohio (8 cents), Michigan (8 cents) and Indiana (6 cents) paying premiums of more than a nickel per gallon. Pump prices fell week-over-week in 39 states and Washington, D.C., with the largest savings occurring in Montana (8 cents) and Missouri (7 cents).
Drivers in two states and Washington, D.C., saw monthly savings, with retail averages discounted by more than a nickel per gallon in 38 states and Washington, D.C. Averages are down by double digits in 19 states. The largest savings in this time period were seen in the midcontinent states of Montana (28 cents), North Dakota (16 cents), Wyoming (16 cents) and South Dakota (15 cents). Gas prices increased in eight states, with the largest increases occurring in California (13 cents), Michigan (8 cents) and Illinois (5 cents).
Ongoing supply challenges mean that California drivers (up 16 cents) are no longer experiencing year-over-year price discounts. Annual discounts exist in every other state and Washington, D.C., but continue to diminish. Hawaii (down 85 cents) is the only state where drivers are saving more than 75 cents per gallon compared to one year ago, and the price per gallon is down by more than 25 cents in a total of 36 states and Washington, D.C. year over year.