Holiday travelers rejoice: Pittsburgh-area gasoline falls again to $2.54 a gallon




Motorists hitting the road this long holiday weekend will see some of the lowest summer fuel prices in recent memory. 

Pump prices in the Pittsburgh region dropped another three cents a gallon in the last week to $2.54 on Monday, according to GasBuddy’s survey of more than 700 stations in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Regional gasoline prices, which usually reach an annual peak in June, fell 12 cents a gaIlon during the month. Pump prices have now recorded a decrease for 10 consecutive weeks.

Meanwhile, the average price nationally stayed flat at $2.25 a gallon, GasBuddy reported. In June, U.S. prices hit the lowest average for that time of year since 2005, according to the price-tracking website’s data.

The prolonged drop have been unusual because seasonal pressures typically push up gasoline prices during spring and summer months. Refineries temporarily shut down to produce cleaner-burning gasoline for the summer months, and demand from motorists typically rises with warmer weather.

Each spring, average U.S. gasoline prices rise 35 cents to 75 cents, usually from February to May, according to GasBuddy’s historical figures. Last year, Pittsburgh-area prices increased 73 cents from February to June.

So far this spring, regional prices are about what they were in February.

Market analysts agree that slumping global oil prices, which are the biggest factor in American gasoline prices, are keeping prices historically low. Though global oil price benchmark rose to $56 a barrel earlier in April, it has cooled off in May and June, falling to about $45 a barrel.

A deal reached in December to cut production among the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries has not been enough to push prices higher. OPEC members in May agreed to extend those production caps another nine months, but disappointed investors who wanted deeper cuts.

On Monday, global oil prices rallied back to $49 a barrel. 

“With July 4 around the corner, the national average gasoline price has fallen over the last week yet again,” Dan McTeague, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com, wrote in the website’s weekly media release. 

Mr. McTeague, however, cautioned that U.S. prices stand to rise as crude oil is expected to eventually bounce back.

“While it has been over a month since the national average last saw a weekly rise, it is looking more likely we will soon face just that,” he advised. “Oil prices have rebounded  ... It is just a matter of time before the national average bottoms out for the short-term.”

Motorists heading out of state are likely to save a good chunk of money, as Pittsburgh-area gasoline is higher than in most of the country. Pennsylvania has the tenth-most expensive price per gallon, in part because the state has the highest fuel taxes in the country, according to GasBuddy.com.

Just an hour’s drive west, Ohio’s average gasoline price is $2.09 — an 18 percent discount off Pittsburgh-area prices.

Compared with previous years, the region’s pumps are on average  two cents cheaper than this time one year ago; 42 cents cheaper than in 2015; and $1.31 cheaper than in 2014.

Daniel Moore: dmoore@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2743 and Twitter @PGdanielmoore.

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