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Gasoline prices remain far above 2010 levels

Retail gasoline prices are falling, but at rates that are difficult to notice, especially in California. Perhaps even worse for consumers during a weak economic recovery, the pump pain remains locked in far above the cost of filling up a tank a year ago.

CA_grph The average price of a gallon of regular gasoline in California dropped just 1.6 cents a gallon in the past week, to $3.93, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report. A year ago, a gallon of regular would have cost $3.008. Nationally, prices were falling at a faster pace, down 6.1 cents to an average of $3.588 a gallon. But a year ago, the national average for regular gasoline was  $2.731 a gallon.

The AAA Fuel Gauge Report gets its averages from credit-card receipts compiled from more than 100,000 retail outlets around the U.S. by the Oil Price Information Service and by Wright Express.

Some analysts chose to view the price declines in the best possible light. Patrick DeHaan, a senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy.com, where members report the highest and lowest prices they see, said, "It took the end of summer for a drop in retail gasoline prices, but I'm sure motorists won't complain that we're finally seeing some drops."

DeHaan added: "As we enter October we'll see markets slowly quiet down, with retail gasoline prices falling to $3.35-$3.55 on average by Thanksgiving, with the exception being typical hotspots on the West Coast."

But other experts noted that the price drops won't be enough to boost the confidence of consumers who remember what they were paying for fuel last year.

Under the heading "EXPENSIVE GAS," Monday's Jacob Gold newsletter for investors said: "American consumers spent $44.9 billion at gas stations in August 2011, up $7.7 billion from the $37.2 billion spent at gas stations in August 2010." Gold is president and chief executive of Jacob Gold and Associates, a wealth-management firm in Arizona.

In other energy news, crude oil prices were driven lower in early trading on fears that the European debt crisis would weaken demand for the commodity. The U.S. benchmark crude, West Texas Intermediate, was down $2.46 to $85.50 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Oil prices are down 6.4% so far for the year.

The European benchmark, Brent North Sea crude, fell $2.56 to $109.66 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Exchange.

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-- Ronald D. White

Graphic: The AAA Fuel Gauge Report's 12-month rolling average for the price of regular gasoline in California and around the nation. Credit: AAA

 
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