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Gas below $3 a gallon in some places -- but not in California

September 25, 2011 |  2:49 pm

Gast pump If your Sunday drive happens to take you through St. Louis, then you are in luck.

Dozens of service stations in the Gateway City have been offering a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline for less than $3 in recent days, the first time in months that barrier has been broken. It's the result of a recent downward trend in pump prices that has brought the nationwide average to $3.51 a gallon, down from a high of $3.98 in May.

A 7-11 in the Carondelet neighborhood, for example, was pumping regular unleaded at $2.84 a gallon Sunday afternoon, according to pricing site GasBuddy.com, while local Sam's Clubs and Costcos were slinging the go juice for just a few pennies more.

The sub-three-buck low-octane fuel has also come available in Houston, New Orleans and a few other places around the country. Residents of those cities, oil industry gurus say, have the Greeks to thank, since continuing angst over that country's perilous finances has driven the price of a barrel of oil down to below $80 a barrel. 

That's pushed prices for the refined goods down from worrisome heights. Worrisome because higher fuel prices take a toll on the economy, rippling through the consumption chain. Now, the latest data from AAA shows that gasoline has dropped below $3.50 a gallon in 21 states. In the past week, average prices fell by nearly a dime. 

Sadly, the bounty of an agonized European Union has not fallen equally across this country. California continues to be out of luck when it comes to filling the tank.

According to AAA, the average price of a gallon of 87-proof is $3.84 a gallon. Only Alaska ($3.99) and Hawaii ($4.24) charge more.

So those of you who are keeping your driving within state lines may be wondering, what's the best I can do in California? Well, if you're in Vallejo, there's a Costco with $3.49-a-gallon gas with your name on it. Closer to the Southland, a bargain is still in the $3.75 range, according to GasBuddy.

Those prices may seem cheap in the future, however. Wall Street forecasters project the price of crude will reach $120 a barrel in the next six months. Fill up while you can.

-- Ken Bensinger

 Photo: At the gas pump. Credit: Los Angeles Times

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