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Area gas prices drop under $3

It's the first time in about a year that prices at the pump have been so low

11/12/2012 11:05 PM

11/13/2012 7:47 AM

For the first time in roughly a year, Tarrant County motorists can gas up for less than $3 a gallon.

At more than a dozen service stations scattered around the area, the price of regular unleaded gasoline fell to $2.99 or less Monday, according to GasBuddy.com, whose data is posted by drivers reporting what they see. The average for the area, according to both GasBuddy and AAA, was $3.12, 7 cents less than a week ago and 41 cents less than a month ago.

Tile contractor Gary Van De Kieft took advantage of the $2.98-a-gallon price at the QuickTrip on Precinct Line Road just north of Airport Freeway in Hurst. The station was at $3.04 Monday morning when he drove past it on the way to a job, he said, but the price had dropped below $3 on his return trip, said Van De Kieft, who lives near Eagle Mountain Lake.

"I put in a tank to 11/2 tanks a week. This makes a lot of difference," he said as he finished pumping 22.9 gallons into his pickup for $68.48.

At a RaceTrac on Precinct Line Road, John Dames also decided to fill up when he saw the price, also $2.98 a gallon.

"I saw it was under $3, and I knew I had to," the Southlake engineer said. His Volkswagen GTI gets good mileage, he said, but a break at the pump is always welcome.

The stage may have been set for lower gasoline prices last week when the average U.S. price for a gallon of regular unleaded took its biggest drop since 2008, the weekly Lundberg Survey reported. That 21-cent decline was driven by lower crude oil prices, lost demand in the Northeast after Superstorm Sandy, and a big drop in California gas prices as West Coast refineries recovered from problems.

Gas prices rose sharply leading up to Memorial Day, the traditional start of the summer travel season. There were fears the U.S. average might top the $4.11 a gallon seen in July 2008, which coincided with crude oil's surge above $140 a barrel just before collapsing as the financial crisis took hold.

Now, analysts think gasoline prices will keep falling as demand is weak and there are fears of a slowing economy. U.S. lawmakers must grapple with working out a budget compromise before year's end to avoid spending cuts and tax hikes, and Europe struggles to avoid falling back into recession.

In futures markets Monday, gasoline slid on those fears by 2.3 cents.

"You're not really seeing strong national levels of demand," Gene McGillian, an analyst and broker at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Conn., told Bloomberg News. "But we're just over a week away from the Thanksgiving holiday with all the driving that goes into that."

The AAA auto club is expected to release its projections today for travel during the four-day period, which begins Nov. 22.

The average nationwide cost for regular gasoline fell 0.2 cent to $3.43 a gallon, AAA reported Monday. That's the lowest since July 18. AAA's average U.S. pump price reached a 2012 high of $3.93 on April 4.

This report includes material from Bloomberg News.

Jim Fuquay, (817) 390-7552

Twitter: @jimfuquay

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