GASOLINE supplies this summer are likely to be the tightest in years, but motorists won't be idling in long lines unless the distribution system is crimped by a refinery or pipeline accident, analysts say. The supply squeeze may trigger more price increases as the summer driving season wears on. Yet some analysts indicate at least a modest possibility that prices could drop a few cents a gallon.
The national average gasoline price slipped about a penny a gallon between mid-May and early June, to $1.17, after a steep rise earlier in the spring, according to the Lundberg Survey, a Los Angeles-based group that tracks gasoline prices through surveys. Overall, prices are now nearly 20 cents a gallon higher than at the start of the year. The price outlook for summer is clouded by conflicting forces at work in the market.
More summertime driving would be expected to push up prices at the pump, and yet wholesale prices paid by service-station dealers have come down in recent weeks. It's not clear, however, that dealers will pass on their savings to consumers, since they took a beating in late March and April when wholesale prices skyrocketed in the aftermath of the Exxon oil tanker spill in Alaska.