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Gas prices may ‘trend lower’ this summer—depending on the hurricane season

Good news for summer road trippers: Despite headlines about oil production cuts, recent drops in gas prices are expected to persist over the next few months, experts say, bringing a little less pain at the pump for the average American driver.

The national average regular gas price in the U.S. is $3.503 per gallon as of June 5, according to AAA. That’s a slight drop from a week ago, when gas stood at $3.559 per gallon, and even more so from earlier in the year when average prices peaked around $3.67. Still, prices are much higher than they were at the beginning of the year, an increase that is typical each year as summer arrives.

Both AAA and GasBuddy, which track prices, predict the mid-$3 per gallon range will stick for the season, with some stations lowering prices to $2.99 per gallon or less. That puts costs in line with last summer and lower than in 2022, when demand surged as a result of several factors, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“In 2022, there were so many imbalances that needed to heal, and now they have,” says Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. “Our economy has stabilized after two years of being through the roof…I’m hoping and expecting gas prices to trend lower throughout the summer.”

Andrew Gross, AAA spokesperson, also predicts “a slow, steady decline” in prices over the next few months—assuming current conditions sustain, never a sure thing in the summertime, and especially not this summer, when experts are warning of a potentially disastrous hurricane season. No one can predict the future, but storms in the Gulf Coast could hamper oil production and lead to higher costs.

Extreme heat could also be an issue, says Gross, particularly in the Southwest. And this summer is expected to be a hot one.

“Refineries don’t like temperature extremes, they are kind of like goldilocks,” he says. “It gets too hot, they have to cut production. When the temperature breaks, they get back to it.”

Also at play: Conflict abroad. While the Israel-Gaza conflict and the war in Ukraine are not affecting prices currently, that could change, says Tom Seng, an assistant professor at Texas Christian University’s Neeley School of business with over 30 years in the natural gas industry.

“Oil has not been interrupted, and that’s always a worry when you have conflict in [the Middle East],” says Seng. “Right now, the market doesn’t seem to be worried.”

Not even news that OPEC+ agreed to extend crude oil production cuts into next year has made much of an impact, as that outcome was already priced into the market, he says. Oil accounts for around 50% or more of the cost of gasoline.

Seng mentions one reason prices might be dropping is because consumer demand has fallen as the cost increased earlier in the year.

“Since January first, gas prices have been higher than a year ago and creeping up,” he says. “I have faith the U.S. consumer said, ‘Fine, I’m going to cut back on my gasoline usage and find other ways.’”

Of course, prices vary greatly depending on location. Gross says the Western portion of the U.S. could see some of the largest drops in price, but that’s because they have the highest costs to begin with. Right now, the lowest average costs are in Mississippi ($2.99), Arkansas ($3.01), and Oklahoma ($3.02); the most expensive are in California ($5), Hawaii ($4.76), and Washington ($4.47), according to AAA.

Tips to keep gasoline costs down

  • Take the pedal off the metal. “Be aware of how you’re driving and how that impacts your fuel efficiency,” says De Haan. If you are speeding light to light and slamming on the brakes at every red, your car will consume a lot more gasoline.
  • Use apps to find deals: “Nobody buys a big-screen TV before they go to Amazon, Costo, Best Buy,” says De Haan. Gas “is the same thing.” So shop around—smartly. Apps like GasBuddy can help you track down the least expensive option near you, while local stations’ apps may offer discounts or rewards.
  • Get the right membership: Some credit cards offer discounts or cash back on gas purchases, while your local grocery store chain or buyer’s club may also offer members discounts, says Renee Horne, chief marketing and customer experience officer at Chase Auto.
  • Don’t fill up all the way: If you need to stop at a more expensive station, “consider just topping up enough gas to safely get you to the next station, where prices are hopefully more affordable,” suggests Horne.
  • Plan it out. State lines can make a huge difference in price due to taxes, says De Haan. So if you’re road tripping from one state to the next, try to stop for gas in the less expensive area.
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