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Gas prices expected to drop in Whatcom County in coming weeks

Whatcom County residents should expect lower gasoline prices this fall, but not as low as much of the U.S.

A new study by GasBuddy.com predicts that U.S. drivers can expect to see the lowest gas prices in four years this fall, with the average national price in the $3.15 to $3.25 a gallon range.

If that happens, it would be the lowest average since the fall of 2010, when the country was mired in a deep economic downturn. As of Wednesday, Sept. 17, the national average was $3.37 a gallon.

In Washington state, the average price should be around $3.25 a gallon in November, which means some stations in the state may offer gas for under $3 a gallon, said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for GasBuddy.

Generally the Pacific Northwest looks good in terms of market conditions, Kloza said, adding that this area is still vulnerable to a price spike if trouble like a fire leads to a shutdown of one of the West Coast refineries.

Bellingham gas prices tend to be higher than the state and national average. As of Sept. 17, the average price in the Bellingham metro area was $3.88 a gallon, according to AAA Washington’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report. That’s down 2 cents from the day before and down 8 cents from a week ago. The least expensive gas among major metro areas was in Spokane, at $3.70 a gallon.

According to GasBuddy, three major developments have led to lower retail gas prices: International crude oil prices are down significantly since June; autumn is traditionally a time when prices drop; and overall demand is down. Prices tend to drop in the fall because refiners can switch back to a blend of gas that is easier to produce.

The lower gas prices could lead to increased consumer spending in other areas, according to the report. GasBuddy estimates that U.S. motorists spent $40 billion in September 2013, but that bill is expected to be $2.5 billion lower this September.

While gas prices are expected to be lower this fall, Kloza doesn’t expect them to stay low for a sustained period. But he thinks the peaks won’t be as harsh as recent years.

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