Experts hope gas prices have peaked

by Sarah Fay Campbell

Gas prices have dropped 25 cents in the past month, and some analysts believe the high price for 2013 has already been reached.

“We can’t say it with certainty, but we are cautiously optimistic the price peak we saw on Feb. 27 might actually hold up to be the peak for the year,” said Gregg Laskoski, petroleum analyst with GasBuddy.

“We would be naive to say that we can say that with a great deal of confidence,” of course, he said. “There is still so much ahead, and April and May always represent a great deal of volatility as far as retail gasoline prices.”

GasBuddy just revised its forecast for April and May, Laskoski said.

“We had forecast that the April average would be around $3.95” nationally, he said. “Now we’re saying it’s more likely to be closer to $3.69.”

They’re predicting a range of $3.55 to $3.85 for April and $3.50 to $3.80 for May.

The national average on Friday was $3.642, down from $3.686 a week ago and $3.786 a month ago, according to AAA’s website. The state average was $3.505. That’s down from $3.548 a week ago and $3.756 a month ago.

Gas is also much cheaper than it was this time last year — the Georgia average price was $3.835 a year ago, and the national average was $3.921.

In Newnan on Friday, regular unleaded could be had for $3.41 a gallon, and a few stations were offering it for $3.42.

Because spring is a volatile time, “we may see a bit of an increase, maybe 5 or 10 cents,” in April, Laskoski said.

But they’re seeing lots of encouraging signs, mostly on the supply side.

“There is a great deal more energy production happening at this time than we saw last year,” Laskoski said.

There’s a good bit of cheaper Canadian crude making its way to the United States, as well.

And “we are seeing strong numbers on gas production and refinery operation. The nation’s refinery output last week increased. We saw significant increases on the East Coast and also in the Gulf,” Laskoski said.

“Those are very encouraging signs.”

On the flip side, however, in the last week or so, “we saw crude oil go from $92 to over $97” a barrel. “So that is something we have to watch,” he said.

Of course, there’s always the volatility in the Middle East, which can force gasoline prices to skyrocket.

“We can’t say with absolute certainty that we have seen the retail gas price peak for the year, but perhaps we have,” Laskoski said.

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