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Gas prices drop below $3 in region

Gasoline prices dropped below $3 a gallon at some stations in Northeastern Pennsylvania for the first time in nearly four years.

According to AAA Mid-Atlantic, the last time the price was this low in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area was Dec. 3, 2010.

Gas prices typically decline in the autumn due to decreased driving and the switch to winter-blend gasoline, but prices have fallen faster than many expected as a result of sharply lower crude oil prices.

Crude oil is the main cost associated with gasoline and represents about two-thirds of the price. Over the last four months, crude oil prices have fallen nearly 23 percent in value, according to AAA.

The lower price was good news to motorists at stations where gas was below $3 a gallon.

“Driving this behemoth, it’s wonderful,” said Scranton resident Steve Miller, who pumped gas in his Dodge Ram pickup truck Monday at PSC on South Main Street in Wilkes-Barre, where gas was $2.99 a gallon.

“When I would normally put $20 of gas in months ago, the needle would barely move,” Miller said. “Now with the gas prices being down below $3 a gallon, I actually see a difference in the gauge itself. It is nice to finally see that you are actually getting something for $20.”

Nationally, the average price of gasoline also dropped below $3 a gallon over the weekend for the first time since December 2010, ending its longest streak ever above that price.

AAA estimates that lower gas prices are helping consumers save at least $250 million per day on gasoline compared to early summer, when the national average reached $3.68 per gallon.

Related: Low oil prices send chills through oil patch.

“Consumers are experiencing ‘sticker delight’ as gas prices unexpectedly drop below $3 in much of the country,” said Jim Lardear, director of public and government affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Lower gas prices are a boon to the economy just in time for holiday travel and shopping.”

According to AAA, the national average gas price was above $3 for 1,409 consecutive days. During that time, U.S. gas prices averaged $3.52 per gallon and climbed as high as $3.98 per gallon on May 5, 2011.

Gas prices have dropped to an average of $2.82 a gallon in New Jersey and $2.86 in Delaware.

Prices are higher in Pennsylvania as a result of Gov. Tom Corbett increasing gasoline taxes as part of a plan to generate $2.3 billion over the next five years for improvements to Pennsylvania’s highways, bridges and mass-transit systems.

The average price of gasoline in the area on Monday was $3.11 a gallon, down three cents over the weekend and seven cents in the last week, according to AAA.

Nationally, AAA reported more than 60 percent of all stations are selling gas for less than $3 per gallon.

“The steep decline in gas prices has helped to make driving less expensive for the vast majority of Americans who use their car every day,” Lardear said. “Many Americans are spending $10 to $20 less to fill up the cars on every trip to the gas station compared to what they paid during the summer driving season.”

AAA anticipates gasoline prices will continue to drop in the weeks ahead, but it is possible that prices in many areas will begin to stabilize. By spring, AAA anticipates higher gas prices may return due to refinery maintenance, increased demand and a return to summer-blend gasoline.

 

dallabaugh@citizensvoice.com, 570-821-2115

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