Gasoline prices falling after Fourth of July driving peak

Gasoline prices fell the third consecutive week for the nation’s annual driving peak — the Fourth of July weekend — as the glut of gasoline supply continues to prove ample for the record fuel demand.

The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in the Houston area dipped about 2 cents in the last week down to $2.09, while the national average fell 3 cents to $2.26. It’s the longest period of consecutive declines since prices previously bottomed out in February, according to fuel price tracker, GasBuddy.com.

“Any way you slice it, this summer has featured the cheapest Memorial Day, July 4 and perhaps Labor Day in the last eleven years, and motorists have been responding by hitting the roads in record numbers,” said Patrick DeHaan, a senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.

U.S. refineries are churning out fuels at a high 93 percent utilization rate, which is the highest output in several months, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The strong output helps keep gasoline prices from spiking further. Gasoline inventories had a 1.9 million barrel rise last week, increasing inventories 10 percent higher than last summer.

The price of crude oil — the primary ingredient of fuels — also fell Tuesday morning now that the driving peak is past. The U.S. crude benchmark sold for about $47.30 a barrel at about 9 a.m. Tuesday, down about $1.70 for the day.

Gasoline prices are expected to fall slowly for the rest of the summer, although weather impacts could always turn the tide.

“While prices have come down, we now head to the time of year when hurricane season enters the picture,” DeHaan stated. “In the last couple of years we have seen minimal to no disruption as hurricane season largely went by with no major storms that hit land. Should we see a major hurricane enter the Gulf, gas prices may react.”

The average U.S. price for gasoline is expected to fall to an average of $2.21 in August, $2.02 in October and $1.88 in December, according to GasBuddy.

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