Relief at the Pump Is Here: Biggest Drop in Gas Prices in Years

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Around the country over the past week, gas prices have been dropping nearly 2¢ per day, on average. At this pace, by next summer, gas will be free!

OK, so that’s not likely to happen. But the latest Energy Information Administration report indicates that the long-awaited decline in gas prices is finally upon us. For the week ending on October 22, the national average for a gallon of regular was down 13.2¢.

That, according to GasBuddy.com, is the largest decline in well over a year. Some states that had seen prices soar in early October are now the beneficiaries of sharp declines: Michigan prices are down 26¢, while a gallon costs 19¢ less in California than it did a week ago.

All of this must be kept in perspective, though. According to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report, fuel still remains exceptionally expensive even after last week’s price plummet. The current national average, $3.648 per gallon as of Tuesday, is nearly 19¢ more than the average at this time last year ($3.456). In California, according to the Los Angeles Times, drivers are paying all-time highs for this time of year, even after prices dipped around 25¢ over a two-week span.

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Even bigger breaks at the pump are expected in the months ahead. “My forecast calls for gasoline prices in Los Angeles/Long Beach to slowly decrease between now and Thanksgiving about $1 per gallon, to $3.60 per gallon,” independent fuel price specialist Bob van der Valk told the LA Times. The average in California hit $4.67 in early October.

Analysts cited by USA Today predict that prices around the country will drop an additional 5¢ to 15¢ in each of the next three weeks, bottoming out with a national average of $3.30 or so per gallon. Experts—who have been wrong before—anticipate prices going below $3 in places like Detroit, where a gallon cost over $4 as recently as August.

Many observers have noted that not only the timing but the location of some of the steepest price plunges seem rather curious: Price decreases are coinciding with the rampup to the 2012 election, and several swing states are enjoying particularly large drops in gas station pricing. Drivers (and potential voters) in Ohio and Wisconsin, notes TheHill.com, are paying 24¢ and 21¢ per gallon less than they were a week ago.

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The timing seems like it could help the incumbent stay in office. Could a conspiracy be afoot? Well, no. Despite what some presidential candidates said earlier this year, no president can suddenly bring us $2 gas. For that matter, as one prominent New York Times op-ed columnist has tried to explain—using facts and everything—gas prices are out of any president’s control, even though many Americans think otherwise.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

3 comments
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JeffKastner.com
JeffKastner.com like.author.displayName 1 Like

It's amazing what an election year will do for gas prices.  

gernottrolf
gernottrolf like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

So there is a steep price drop but there was an even steeper price raise. We are still over $4/gal. And to boot the States are EXPORTING oil and gasoline.