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In America today, the average cost of a gallon of regular unleaded gas is $3.84. Last year at this time, it was $3.86. And the difference in those prices could be worth more than just two cents.
According to BusinessWeek, the last time Americans saw a dip in year-over-year gas prices was in 2009 -- but then, improving on the sky-high per-gallon averages of 2008 wasn't much of a challenge. In fact, excluding the anomalies of 2008, gas has been growing steadily more expensive for several years.
What's with the drop?
The current dip in pump prices is likely due to a variety of factors:
In the end, the drop in gas prices should provide a shot in the arm to the U.S. economy. Cheaper gas means that it's less costly to do business, and it also leads to an increase in consumer confidence. Both represent important gains.
But will it stick?
Whether gas prices will continue to drop, we can't say.
Many analysts had predicted that gas would hit $5 a gallon this year, but although we've seen high figures in parts of the country -- even $6 in Alaska -- the national average hasn't even crossed the $4 mark.
What we do know is that gas is more expensive during the warmer months because it's mixed with greater quantities of additives. The biggest spike in prices tends to occur in the changeover from regular gas to the summer blend, because the latter is sometimes delayed in getting to market, which leads to shortages. So in theory, we should be hitting the top of the curve right about now.
However, the highest price on record was in July of 2008 -- $4.11 for a gallon of regular -- so it's possible that prices could edge up again before the vacation season ends.
Keep doing what you're doing. Americans now use less gas than they have in years. We're being thoughtful about planning trips -- whether we're motoring across town or across the country. We're traveling less. We're taking mass transit. And when it comes time to buy a new car, we're buying something that guzzles a little less gas.
Keep it up, and we'll all be tapping into America's "fifth fuel": efficiency.