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State gas prices lowest in nearly two years

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Updated: January 22, 2013 6:28AM



Illinois drivers filled up their tanks Thursday with the cheapest gas in nearly two years.

In Chicago, gas prices have been down 95 cents a gallon since the middle of September. That’s the lowest price in the city since Dec. 21, 2011, according to AAA spokesman Michael Green. A Marathon gas station on the Southwest Side Thursday sold regular gas for $3.22 a gallon.

The state’s average gas price is the lowest it’s been since Feb. 2, 2011.

While the average gas price in Illinois — $3.25 — is still slightly above the national average of $3.21 a gallon, it’s down 85 cents since the middle of September.

On Monday, the national average of $3.25 for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline became the lowest price of 2012. That is nine cents lower than a week ago and 17 cents less than a month ago, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report.

Monday also marked the first time all 50 states dropped below $4 a gallon, including Hawaii, since Jan 1.

The price drop isn’t so out of the blue. It happens every year around the holiday season but tends to go back up on Christmas Day. And there are a couple of reasons for the drop. The switch to a winter-blend fuel is cheaper to produce, there are more gas suppliers and cheaper crude oil prices. And there’s a lower demand for gas, with fewer people on the roads.

“The demand being down is the biggest factor of all in Chicago because fewer people are driving in the winter months, and that is resulting in gas prices dropping,” Green said.

Still, about one in four Americans are expected to take a road trip this holiday season and AAA predicts 84.4 million will be traveling by car this holiday season. That’s a 1.3 percent increase over last year.the 83.3 million people who traveled by car last year.

Prices will continue to drop until Christmas Day, according to Pat DeHaan, analyst at gasbuddy.com. He said prices have gone back up slightly between Christmas and January 15 the past six of seven years. DeHaan said he expects prices to drop at least another nickel, before increasing in the coming days.

“You won’t notice a whole lot of an increase,” DeHaan said. “If you’re leaving today and coming back in a week, you may notice a slight increase in price. I definitely wouldn’t call it a significant bump.”

Despite the small reprieve for drivers, Chicago isn’t setting any records. The city is on par with this month’s average price per gallon. And it’s also at the same price that it averaged at this time a year ago.

Economic concerns always play a role in gas prices and Washington’s discussions regarding the fiscal cliff also will play a role in just how much gas prices will rise next year, Green says.

“If no deal is reached, there will be increased pessimism about the economy and it would go along with higher unemployment and other economic factors,” Green said. “We may continue to see gas prices fall.”



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