The price at the pump was supposed to be a heckuvalot cheaper by now. In early August, gas prices appeared poised to plummet, with experts forecasting the national average for a gallon of regular would decrease by 1¢ per day. For all sorts of reasons, the dip never occurred, though. Gas actually cost more one month after the predictions were made. Now, however, with average prices dropping 7¢ over the last seven days, it looks like the extended, long-awaited price break at the pump is upon us.
Better late than never, I suppose. AAA’s Fuel Gauge Report lists the current national average for a gallon of regular at $3.54. It was $3.55 yesterday, $3.58 on Tuesday, and $3.61 one week ago.
Analysts had predicted that the national average in mid-September would be about $3.35 per gallon, but as one expert told the Los Angeles Times, it’s been taking much longer than expected for consumers to see cheaper prices at gas stations:
“As we enter October, we’ll see markets slowly quiet down, with retail gasoline prices falling to $3.35 to $3.55 on average by Thanksgiving, with the exception being typical hot spots on the West Coast,” said Patrick DeHaan, a senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy.com, a price-tracking website.
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This week, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that gas prices in the Second City-area had dropped nearly a dime over the past ten days, to $3.87 as of Tuesday. And continued price decreases are expected:
The decline is linked to the switch from more expensive summer gasoline blends to winter formulations and weaker demand for gasoline and oil, said Chicago-based PFGBEST oil industry analyst Phil Flynn.
Prices in Chicago could fall to an average of $3.50 to $3.55 a gallon by the end of the year and nationally could drop to $3.25 a gallon, he said.
Considering the sharp drop in stock prices on Thursday, and widespread fears of a double dip recession, demand for gasoline and oil is likely to weaken further. Prices at the pump would presumably drop as a result.
But they’ve got a long way to go to reach the levels of last winter: One year ago, the national average for a gallon of regular was $2.72.
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.