Don’t get too excited about gas below $3

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Wednesday’s column, available on houstonchronicle.com:

I recently filled up for $2.93 a gallon and I must admit feeling a twinge of elation that gasoline prices had dipped below $3.

The feeling was fleeting.

Pump prices may finally be coming down, but the modest declines cap a year that has been the costliest ever for U.S. motorists. GasBuddy, which tracks pump prices, found recently that the average price for regular unleaded nationally was $3.63 a gallon so far this year, and that comes on top of an average of $3.51 last year, which was also a record.

Now, on the one hand, this shouldn’t surprise us.The average price for a barrel of crude oil has increased about 23 percent, to $85.79 from $69.51, in the past three years.

More surprising is that oil and gasoline prices have been rising in tandem with increases in domestic production. This wasn’t supposed to happen. We are greeted almost weekly, after all, by some new prediction that the U.S. or North America is on the cusp of “energy independence.”

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