WASHINGTON, Oct. 20 (UPI) -- More refineries working at full capacity and plenty of supply on the domestic market means U.S. drivers are paying far less for gas, market analysts said.
AAA reports a national average retail price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline at $2.25 per gallon, the lowest it's been since early February. The price at the pump is about 5 cents, or 2.7 percent, less than this time last week and Tuesday's price represents the 11th straight day for declines.
AAA said in its weekly market snapshot heavy fall maintenance at U.S. refineries -- which is now subsiding -- kept gas prices higher than they would've been, but ample domestic supply put a ceiling on how high they would go.
"This factor has also been a contributing factor to prices moving lower over the past several days," the motor club's report read. "Barring any unanticipated disruptions in supply, and/or spikes in the price of crude oil, the national average could fall below the $2 per gallon threshold for the first time since 2009 before the end of year."
Six states are reporting an average price below $2 per gallon. Closer analysis from retail market watcher GasBuddy.com finds about 25 percent of the retail service stations nation-wide are selling gas below $2 per gallon.
"That number will likely grow in the months ahead as refiners continue to finish maintenance and resume producing gasoline at a time when demand is low, contributing downward pressure to gasoline prices," GasBuddy Senior Petroleum Analyst Patrick DeHaan said in an emailed statement.
More than half of the price at the pump is a reflection of crude oil prices, which have fallen steadily in recent weeks. AAA's analysis finds crude oil prices could shift lower because of weaker demand from a slowing Chinese economy and higher output from Iran, a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.