Local News

Summer good news: Slide in gas prices may continue

— Arnold Austin is on a fixed income so he always keeps tabs on gas prices.

When time came for him to pump some gas Tuesday, he decided to go for only $20 worth in case prices fall a little further, as he has read in the media it might do.

Steve Milburn, a former newspaper carrier, keeps his eyes on gas prices all the time. When he delivered newspapers, the price at the pump made a difference to his take-home pay. These days, his son has taken his place, but Milburn is still well aware of gasoline prices. By his calculation, prices have fallen by about 15 cents compared to about three weeks ago.

Milburn’s probably right.

According to AAA - The Auto Club Group, average gas prices nationwide decreased for the 17th consecutive day Monday and drivers in the Southeast could see prices dropping by 10 to 20 cents more in the next two weeks. The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s short-term outlook sees 2015 prices to be even lower.

“Oil prices hit a free-fall at the end of last week,” said Mark Jenkins, AAA spokesman Sunday.

The group’s national average price for regular unleaded gasoline Monday was $3.61 per gallon.

Gas Buddy’s average nationwide price was $3.595, and by all accounts, the price drop continued into the 18th day Tuesday.

At $3.61 per gallon, the pump price was four cents less than one week ago Monday and five cents less than a month, AAA estimates.

“Drivers continue to pay higher prices in comparison to a year ago ($3.60), but the difference has narrowed to just a penny,” the AAA said.

The reasons behind the decline? It’s primarily due to lower crude oil costs as the situation stabilizes in Iraq, the AAA said.

“The national average may continue to slide or remain flat, barring any geopolitical concerns, major hurricane or refinery disruptions,” they add.

This year, another thing happened.

The United States surpassed Saudi Arabia and Russia to become the world’s biggest oil producer.

According to a report from the Bank of America Corp., the U.S. is projected to remain the top producer of 2014 because domestic output is forecast to increase and production growth outside the U.S. has been lower than anticipated.

“The shale boom in Texas and North Dakota continues to spur domestic production growth,” said Jenkins. “Not only does supply growth have a positive effect on the economy, but can help reduce the price at the pump. Increasing domestic production puts a cap on oil prices which keeps gas prices affordable.”

Of course, any predictions to do with gas prices comes with a caveat - should the weather turn sour on us or Mideast problems get aggravated, the predictions get turned on their head.

“Domestic oil prices remain susceptible to geopolitical conflict, which in turn influences gas prices, Jenkins warned July 6.” Fortunately, the price of oil is trending down as fears of a supply disruption in Iraq are dissipating and news that Libya will soon resume shipping oil at full capacity.”

A drive along U.S. 27 showed a smorgasbord of prices in Sebring but most of the gas pumps in Avon Park were $3.41 Tuesday morning. In Sebring, prices varied from $3.44 to $3.52 and were in the same price range in Lake Placid.

While Kaley Sager hasn’t noticed the recent price drop, Dustin Harrison has, but like a lot of other people - has become philosophical to the constant upswings and downswings and it’s become business as usual for him.

“You gotta pay,” he said. Tuesday, while pumping gas at the Gate gas station on U.S. 27 in Sebring, he remembered coming to the same location many years ago when he was younger and gas was $1.50 a gallon.

They used to cash all their change and boat all day long on Lake Jackson, he remembered.