Some Monday morning commuters found a welcome surprise on their way to work — gas prices that had slipped below $2.00 per gallon.
Prices in 22 states now average below $2.50. Only Alaska and Hawaii have average prices above $3.00 per gallon, according to GasBuddy.com, which tracks gas prices. The website’s blog says that 13 states have at least one station selling gas for $1.99 or less.
But will the price drops, which allow American consumers to spend their money elsewhere, continue through the holiday season?
It's a safe bet, says AAA public relations manager Michael Green. And the lower prices, he says, will continue through the new year.
Gas prices are linked to oil prices, and CNN reports that crude oil traded below $60 per barrel on Thursday — the first time since 2009.
If oil production slows, demand could increase, lifting prices once more. But reports do not indicate that the OPEC will slow production, Green says.
Analysts predict oil prices could drop below $50 per barrel; right now, it’s about half of the year’s peak of $115.
In a blog post last week for AAA, Green wrote that it is unlikely for the national average to hit $2.00 per gallon. For that to happen, the price of crude oil would have to nearly half, to about $35 per gallon. Since then, the price has dropped by about $5.
While he notes that it's "not outside the realm of possibility," "I still would probably say that it's unlikely," he says.
Natural price changes over different seasons are expected, Green says. Gas prices rise in the spring due to refinery maintenance and stay high in the summer due to high demand. But in the winter, people do not drive as much — so the lower prices are natural.
Across the country, consumers have flocked to the low rates.
Over at Fuel City in Dallas, at least 50 cars waited on line, according to Meagan Harris, the executive producer at WFAA-TV. She tweeted a photo of lines of cars, marching to the pumps “like ants.”
Twitter users took a few minutes to post their gratitude — and the exact prices they paid to fill their tanks — throughout the day.
Southern states are seeing the lowest prices, followed by states in the Midwest. GasBuddy marks the entire West Coast in the red zone in its most recent analysis, meaning that prices range from $2.764 to $3.702. The most common gas price is $2.399 per gallon — last year, it was $3.199 per gallon.