Gasoline prices have begun their seasonal slide.
Better late than never, right?
The national average retail price has fallen for nearly two weeks and at week’s end was $3.69 per gallon.
Nebraska’s average price was $3.65 on Saturday, while Iowa’s was $3.60.
“During the last week, Iowa’s prices dropped 13 cents a gallon, Nebraska’s 15 cents a gallon and the national average 11 cents a gallon,” Rose White, a spokeswoman for AAA Nebraska, said Saturday.
And there’s more good news for those filling up. “We expect the decline to continue in the next couple of weeks,” she said, citing factors that include a 16-cent drop late last week in the wholesale market that hasn’t yet been passed on to consumers.
Some communities in Ohio, Missouri, Illinois and Indiana are seeing prices nearing $3 per gallon, and White said Nebraska and Iowa could be next.
On Saturday, the average price for self-serve unleaded fuel in Omaha was $3.55 per gallon, down about 20 cents from a week ago and about 26 cents in the past month. Lincoln’s average Saturday was $3.60, down about 16 cents in the past week and about 28 cents in the past month. Grand Island’s $3.47 average on Saturday was down about 15 cents from the start of the week and about 42 cents from the start of the month.
Norfolk, Hastings and Kearney also have seen average prices fall by 20 cents or more in the past month.
And prices in Council Bluffs on Saturday were as low as $3.29 per gallon, according to gasbuddy.com. The website reported prices as low as $3.18 in Sioux City.
“Barring no other negative factors, motorists could be looking at some extremely favorable prices by the time the Thanksgiving holiday comes around,” White said.
The usual autumn decrease was delayed because of refinery problems and high oil prices, experts say.
Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service, predicts drops of 5 cents to 15 cents per week for the next three weeks. Over the next several weeks, the national average could be at or below where it was last year.
“There’s some nice relief coming,” he said.
Gasoline prices typically decline in the fall as refiners switch to cheaper fuel blends and drivers take a break from road trips. This year, a series of refinery and pipeline problems sent gasoline supplies plummeting. That sent wholesale gasoline buyers and traders scrambling to purchase whatever they could, at ever higher prices, to secure supply.
The national average price kept rising after Labor Day, when prices normally start to fall. It topped out for the season at $3.87 on Sept. 14, and California prices hit a record $4.67 per gallon on Oct. 7. On the East Coast, gasoline supplies dipped to a four-year low, keeping prices stubbornly high.
Then — finally — the market began to stabilize. The government reported last week that gasoline supplies were heading back up after falling for 10 of the past 11 weeks.
That led to a dramatic drop in wholesale gasoline prices in regional spot markets, according to Kloza, that will soon translate into lower prices at the pump.
This report includes material from The Associated Press.