Gas prices lowest in 12 years, and will continue to go down

The gas station at the Fred Meyer store on Lakeway Drive in Bellingham, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016.
The gas station at the Fred Meyer store on Lakeway Drive in Bellingham, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016. pdwyer@bhamherald.com

With plenty of supply and no major disruptions, drivers across the United States saved about $18.9 billion this summer compared with the year before, according to the latest data from GasBuddy, an online site that tracks gasoline prices.

The study noted that the summer gas prices were the lowest nationally in 12 years.

Prices have remained well below the previous year in Whatcom County as well. The average price for a gallon of gas locally was $2.70 on Tuesday, Aug. 30, according to AAA Washington.

While up 3 cents compared to last week, that average is down 18 cents from a year ago.

In Washington state, current prices for this time of year are the lowest since 2004, said Tamra Johnson of AAA.

The influx of supply is a big reason for the low prices, with current global gasoline supplies about 9 percent higher than last year, while oil supplies are about 15 percent higher, Johnson said.

As refineries begin switching over to the less-expensive winter blend on Thursday, Sept. 15, and demand decreases, drivers should start seeing even lower prices after Labor Day weekend and in the coming weeks, said Gregg Laskoski, senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy.

He doesn’t expect the current global glut to rebalance until around mid-2017.

“Barring any unforseen events, it is reasonable to expect retail prices to move consistently lower,” Laskoski said.

It’s been more than eight years since gas prices hit their peak in Whatcom County, according to AAA Washington data. The Whatcom County record average of $4.50 a gallon was set in June 2008.

While the current savings is a few dollars for a driver filling the gas tank compared with last year, it does add up to impact the local and national economy, said Hart Hodges, director at the Western Washington University’s Center for Economic and Business Research.

Hodges said that while spending hasn’t gone up as much as some predicted because of the gas price savings, the American personal savings rate remains above pre-recession levels.

“So some of the savings from lower gas prices is indeed being saved,” Hodges said.

Dave Gallagher: 360-715-2269, @BhamHeraldBiz