published Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

Gas prices fall in Chattanooga, most of U.S.

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Prices at the pump

$3.22 -- Average price of a gallon of gasoline in Chattanooga, 25 cents below the U.S. average

6 cents -- Drop in local gas prices in the past week

28.7 cents -- Drop in local gas prices in the past month

Source: AAA Fuel Gauge Price Survey

The price of gasoline is falling across most of the the country and has now dropped in Chattanooga to where it was a year ago.

Although Superstorm Sandy has made gas harder to come by in parts of the Northeast, it also severely pinched demand. Drivers in the New York area may soon get relief from long lines and higher gas prices.

A week after Superstorm Sandy hit the area, the price of gas has increased 10 cents per gallon or more in the New York City area and in hard-hit parts of New Jersey. Images of long lines of cars and interviews with frustrated drivers have become staples in news coverage of the storm's aftermath.

But across the rest of the country, the price of gasoline is falling -- fast. It fell 7 cents this past week and has declined almost 9 percent in a month to $3.47 per gallon. The national average should be only slightly higher this Election Day than a year ago. That's due to a dramatic drop in the price of wholesale gasoline and low demand from a combination of cautious consumers and improving automotive fuel efficiency.

Wholesale gasoline futures fell about 12 percent in the last month and are down about 17 percent from a peak just before Hurricane Isaac made landfall in late August. Meanwhile, demand for gasoline has fallen for much of the year, and oil prices have dropped recently.

On Monday, the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute said the average gas mileage of new vehicles sold in the U.S. reached its highest point ever in October. Fuel economy has now improved by 20 percent over the last five years and fuel consumption has fallen 17 percent, the institute said.

Prices should fall further in the coming weeks, according to Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service. Even people in the Northeast now standing or sitting in long lines for gas -- what he calls the "hysteria" in New York and New Jersey -- should catch a break.

Kloza predicts that within a week, many commuters across the country will be paying less to fill up than at this point last year. The national average is currently about 6 cents higher than a year earlier.

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