Gasoline prices continue their steady drop

Gasoline prices dropped 7 cents across Texas and in the Houston area over the past week as crude prices continue to stay below the $100-mark, according to AAA’s Fuel Gauge.

The average price of unleaded fuel dropped to $3.23 in Texas and the Houston area. The national average remained slightly higher at $3.46, a drop of 5 cents, according to AAA.

“Even with Hurricane Sandy causing havoc on refineries and infrastructure in the Northeast, gasoline prices nationally have continued to trend lower,” said Patrick DeHaan, a senior GasBuddy.com petroleum analyst.

Gasoline prices have had a turbulent year rising near the $4 mark during the first half of the year in Houston, but the pace eased during the summer months. Prices rose again in August before sliding again in mid-September.

In the past month, gasoline has dropped more than 25 cents in Houston.

Northeast drivers, however, haven’t had the same luck. Drivers have struggled to find gas in the wake of the devastating storm because of availability issues. The supply issues are causing long lines at stations and forcing some residents to buy gasoline from Craigslist.

Some of those gasoline entrepreneurs were attempting to sell gasoline for more than $10, according to Craigslist ads.

DeHaan said Hurricane Sandy shows the importance of the Gulf Coast refinery system.

In an odd twist, the storm also may have helped to add some relief to prices at the pump.

Tom Kloza, oil analyst at Oil Price Information Services, told CNBC that the storm could reduce prices for the nation due to lower demand.

“My guess is we’ll have 20 to 25 states that will have prices below where they were a year ago,” he told CNBC. “It could be in the $3.40s (a gallon) by next week. There’s a huge swatch of the country that’s going to be getting closer to $3.”