Lower gas prices may be on the way for U.S. consumers by this summer if refinery maintenance ends smoothly and crude oil remains relatively cheap, AAA said in a news release. As reported by the St. Augustine Record, the travel company’s release said it is even possible that gas prices will return to near $2 per gallon in some areas, as long as there are no unexpected problems in the meantime.
AAA does not expect the national average to rise above $3 per gallon this year. “There is a real hope that gas prices could drop significantly in time for the busy summer driving season,” said Mark Jenkins, AAA spokesman. “The overall outlook looks good for drivers, and with any luck we will avoid the types of problems that often lead to higher gas prices at this time of year.” Many refineries have completed seasonal maintenance, though unexpected problems could still occur. Many refineries and wholesalers will switch to more expensive summer-blend gasoline by May 1 to meet EPA clean air regulations.
The cost of crude oil is likely to be the most important factor influencing gas prices over the next few months. At the close of Friday’s formal trading, WTI settled at $49.55 per barrel — 68 cents higher than the week before. Many experts believe that crude oil prices may drop further due to abundant supplies, but international conflict, declining production or other issues could result in higher prices.