A Holiday Present to Consumers: Lower Pump Prices

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A Holiday Present to Consumers: Lower Pump Prices

WASHINGTON -- For the first time in seven weeks, the national average retail price for gasoline fell just below $3 a gallon, Reuters reported, citing the government.

The national price for regular gasoline declined 0.2 cent over the last week to $2.998 a gallon, the Energy Information Administration said Monday in its weekly survey of service stations. The price remained up 68 cents from a year ago, the EIA said.

Many parts of the country have seen pump prices below $3 a gallon for about two weeks, but the move of the national average below the $3 level came as retailers worried falling housing prices and high energy costs would cut holiday spending. Many hope lower gasoline prices could give consumers a psychological lift, Reuters stated.

Savings at the pump reflect the decline in crude oil prices, which account for about half the cost of making motor fuels. The price of U.S. oil fell 40 cents to $91.29 a barrel on Monday at the New York Mercantile Exchange after hitting an all-time high of $99.29 almost a month ago. Slower gasoline demand growth, because of expensive motor fuel, is also helping to keep pump prices in check, according to the report.

The AAA motorist group said U.S. automobile travel over the Christmas and New Year's holiday will rise at the slowest rate of growth in five years because of high fuel prices. About 53 million holiday travelers will reach their destinations by car, up just 0.9 percent from last year, the group stated.

In the EIA's latest weekly price survey, gasoline cost the most on the West Coast, where it fell 3.9 cents to $3.21 a gallon. Among major cities, San Francisco had the highest gasoline costs at $3.39, down 4.7 cents. The Gulf Coast states had the lowest price by region at $2.85 a gallon, down 2.6 cents. Houston had the cheapest pump price at $2.79 a gallon, down 3 cents, Reuters reported.

Separately, the price truckers paid for diesel fuel fell 1.6 cents in the last week to $3.31 a gallon, up 70 cents from a year ago. The New England states had the most expensive diesel fuel at $3.58 a gallon, up 1.1 cents. The Gulf Coast states had the most affordable diesel at $3.25 a gallon, down 2 cents, the EIA said.