Gas prices expected to stay low this summer

Gasoline prices this summer will be the lowest in three years as people drive less and use more fuel-efficient cars, the U.S. Energy Information Administration is predicting.

After an early run-up to the spring and summer driving season in February, average pump prices have retreated in the past month and fell further last week to $3.63 a gallon — 31 cents below year-ago levels, AAA reported.

The energy agency expects prices to stay at today’s low level, on average, throughout the summer — remaining far below records above $4 a gallon in 2008.

More plentiful supplies of crude oil and gasoline, and lower crude prices are weighing on gas prices and should prevent another run at records this year, the Energy Information Administration said. About the only thing putting pressure on prices these days is increased demand for fuel in China, administrator Adam Sieminski said.

A tiny 0.3 percent projected increase in summer driving in the U.S. will be more than offset by improvements in fuel efficiency, enabling the nation to keep importing and consuming less oil and gas than it did in the past, he said.

John B. Townsend, government affairs manager at AAA Mid-Atlantic, said the declining trend in prices is highly “unusual” for this time of year. Normally in the spring, gas prices escalate as refineries gear up to make the specially refined and more expensive fuel blends required by federal environmental law for the summer driving season.

In 2011 and 2012, gas prices flirted with their all-time highs around $4 in April and May, he noted, but they do not appear likely to do so again this year.

Despite the lower fuel costs, Mr. Townsend noted that people seem to be driving less and he hasn’t noticed “any measurable lift from cheaper prices” in people’s driving habits.

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