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Drivers can feast on lower Thanksgiving gas prices

The national average for a gallon of unleaded gasoline Tuesday dropped for the 18th consecutive day to $2.06, about 75 cents cheaper than last year.
The national average for a gallon of unleaded gasoline Tuesday dropped for the 18th consecutive day to $2.06, about 75 cents cheaper than last year. AP

Go ahead and gobble up the cheaper gas prices for your Thanksgiving trip, but don’t be surprised if the price at the pump tumbles even more after you come home.

Motorists are expected to pay the lowest prices for unleaded gasoline this Thanksgiving holiday in seven years, according to the AAA National Fuel Gauge. The national average Tuesday dropped for the 18th consecutive day to $2.06, which is about 75 cents cheaper than last year.

In Texas, the average price for a gallon of gas was $1.86, 6 cents lower than a week ago and 74 cents under what was charged a year ago.

“It is the lowest price for Thanksgiving since the height of the recession in 2008,” said Michael Green, a spokesman for AAA in Washington. “Everything is coming together for drivers in terms of oil and gas prices.”

The news gets even better — unless you work on a drilling rig in West Texas where low crude oil prices are contributing to massive job cuts.

While world events may briefly push the price per gallon up a tick — news that Turkey had shot down a Russian war plane pushed crude oil up $1.12 to $42.87 a barrel — the price will still dip below $2 nationally by Christmas, said Will Speer, a senior petroleum analyst for Gas Buddy.

Everything is coming together for drivers in terms of oil and gas prices.

Michael Green, a spokesman for AAA in Washington

“Oil supplies remain high, domestically and across the world,” Speer said. “Even with lower prices it has not cut into production and world demand is not very bullish, so there’s not a lot of news to push the price of oil much higher.”

In Texas’ major metropolitan areas, the cheapest average price was in Amarillo, where gas was selling for $1.69. Austin showed the highest price at $1.89. Fort Worth and Arlington reported an average price of $1.82 while Dallas’ average was $1.85.

Still, it’s not hard to find cheap gasoline as you drive from Grandma’s house to the Black Friday sale extravaganzas. In Texas, 96 percent of the gas stations are below $2 a gallon, with the lowest 1 percent at $1.58 a gallon and the highest 1 percent at $2.32, AAA reported.

“Few want to be above $2 because it looks bad on the sign,” Green said.

About 42 million Americans — and 3.7 million Texans — are expected to hit the road during the holiday, AAA reported.

Slower consumption growth

Falling gas prices in the fall is not new. Beginning in September, refineries switch to a blend of gasoline that is cheaper to produce after selling fuel that burns cleaner during the summer to meet federal emission guidelines. And the refinery maintenance season is largely over.

The U.S. Department of Transportation released data earlier this month showing that Americans drove 259.9 billion miles in September, a 4.3 percent increase compared with last September. But gasoline consumption went up only 2.7 percent during the first eight months of 2015.

People typically drive less as the days get shorter and temperatures get colder.

Nonetheless, the U.S. Department of Transportation released data earlier this month showing that Americans drove 259.9 billion miles in September and nearly 2.4 trillion miles so far this year. The September total, when compared to last year, was up 4.3 percent.

With the September estimates, the series of consecutive monthly mileage increases hit 19 months, the agency reported.

Consumption, however, is not growing as quickly. Data shows that domestic gasoline consumption increased 2.7 percent during the first eight months of the year compared with 2014, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported.

Growth for the entire year is expected to increase 2.1 percent to an average of 9.1 million barrels a day, the highest level in recent years but still below the record 9.3 million recorded in 2007, EIA reported.

“We expect this to be the busiest year transportation-wise,” Green said. But because cars are more fuel efficient than in the past, “we are looking at record driving but not record fuel consumption.”

Trickle-down effect

Lower consumption has contributed to a glut in oil reserves. Excluding what is kept in the government’s strategic oil reserve, there is a 487 million barrel crude oil surplus compared with a 381 million barrel overflow last year at this time, Speer said.

And while some will be praying a word of thanks around the table for the cheaper gas prices, others will be feeling a pinch in the pocketbook.

Lower oil prices contributed to layoffs in the oil and gas fields, pushing up the Texas unemployment rate in October to 4.4 percent. The state lost 2,000 jobs in mining and logging in October, which includes the oil and gas industry.

Overall, Karr Ingham, the Amarillo-based economist for the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers, said he expects the number of oilfield jobs lost in 2015 to hit 60,000.

Max B. Baker: 817-390-7714, @MaxbakerBB

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