Gas hike Friday bucks trendBy SARAH FAY CAMPBELL
Gasoline prices in Georgia have dropped approximately 40 cents per gallon in the past month, and are expected to drop even further, though the rate of the decrease is expected to slow.
However, prices jumped suddenly late Friday by nine cents at some stations in Newnan.
That’s down from a state average of $3.610 a month ago, and $3.333 a year ago.
Some stations offered gas for substantially less than that. The Kroger at Thomas Crossroads had regular unleaded for $3.09 a gallon Friday afternoon. Regular unleaded could be had for $3.14 on Bullsboro Drive. BJ’s and Sam’s Club were offering regular unleaded for $3.11 to club members, according to georgiagasprices.com .
However, by 5:15 p.m., two popular stations along Bullsboro that had been offering regular unleaded for $3.14 raised prices to $3.23. Some stations still had their lower prices.
At Thomas Crossroads, Kroger offered regular unleaded for $3.09 at 5:30.
A Cowetan reported buying regular unleaded for a mere $3.06 on Thursday in Fayetteville. However, that price jumped by Friday.
Some stations in Georgia offered regular unleaded for under $3, according to the website, which posts reports from motorists. A Citgo in Carrollton was reported to be selling gasoline for $2.99, and a Kroger in Alpharetta had it for $2.81.
Gregg Laskoski, senior petroleum analyst for Gas Buddy, predicts the Georgia state average could “get down to $3.05 to $3.10 a gallon in the next couple of weeks.”
And it’s possible there will be some areas where prices are consistently below $3, though he doesn’t expect the state average to get that low.
Unless conditions change, Laskoski expects the prices to drop slowly, then stabilize and stay stable until late January or early February.
“At some point it will flatten out. Then there is no doubt that in the first quarter of the year we’re going to see higher prices,” Laskoski said.
The lower prices don’t seem to be encouraging people to take on more holiday travel, according to AAA.
AAA is projecting a mere 0.7 increase in holiday travel over last year. That’s 43.6 million Americans taking a trip of more than 50 miles between Nov. 21 and Nov. 25.
Last year, 43.3 million Americans traveled.
Approximately 90 percent of those will be traveling by automobile. The average trip will be 588 miles, roundtrip. That’s down from an average of 706 miles last year.
Travelers in the Southeast will be averaging 525 miles, round trip.
Travelers will also be spending less this year than last year. Overall, they are expected to spend $498 this year, down from $554 last year. Travelers in the Southeast expect to spend an average of $275, according to AAA.
“Although leisure travel is forecast to make just modest gains from last year, it’s still a positive sign to see growth for the fourth year in a row,” said Brent Hubele, vice president of AAA Travel.
The decline in gas prices is mainly a result of supply-and- demand fundamentals, as well as the switch to the cheaper winter blend gasoline, according to Laskoski.
“We have healthy supply and unremarkable demand right now in Georgia,” Laskoski said. In the areas in the Northeast still impacted by Hurricane Sandy, of course, the fundamentals are reversed. “In the Northeast we have weak supply and strong demand,” he said.
Georgia is mainly served by refineries along the Gulf Coast. And, right now, those refineries are operating at 91 percent capacity — which is high. Nationally, refineries are operating at 86 percent of capacity. “They have been reporting an extremely narrow range, between 86 percent and 88 percent,” Laskoski said. “That’s about right for this time of year.”