Gas Prices Flat Ahead of Holiday Travel Season

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The AAA recently forecast:

94.5 million Americans, the largest number ever, will travel 50 miles or more from home during the year-end holiday season, breaking last year’s record of 94 million. This upward trend, an increase of 0.6 percent, marks the fifth consecutive year of increases. The year-end holiday period is defined as Saturday, December 21 to Wednesday, January 1.

The tick up will occur during a period when gasoline prices have been flat for a month, and flat at a relatively low level at which they were a year ago.

The average price of a gallon of regular gas nationwide was $3.222 Thursday. That compares to $3.219 a year ago and $3.212 a month ago.

Although gas prices and oil prices do not move in lock step, to some extent because of refinery capacity and costs, crude prices are up less than 10% from a year ago and trading at just above $96. This is down from nearly $110 in August, a drop due partly to a lessening of political agitation in the Middle East and a rise in production of shale oil.

States in which gas prices are traditionally high have not had as much relief as the national average would indicate. More than 38 million people live in California, compared to the national population of 313 million. The average price of a gallon of gas in the state is $3.584, or 11% above the average nationwide. In the third largest state by population, New York, the price is $3.664, 14% above the national average.

The average price for a gallon of regular in the second largest state by population — Texas – is $3.033, among the lowest in the nation. Texas has more refineries than any other state, which puts supply within a few hundred miles of the state’s largest cities.

Finally, six states have gas prices below $3 — Arkansas, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico and Oklahoma.