Gas Price Drops 27 Cents in Past 3 Weeks

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By David Henry

The average price of a gallon of gasoline in the United States fell 27 cents in the past three weeks as refiners and retailers gave up some of their profits margins to sell more fuel, according to the Lundberg survey released Sunday.

Regular grade gasoline fell to $2.44 a gallon in the Sept. 11 survey from $2.71 on Aug. 21, when the previous survey was taken before the Labor Day holiday.

The decline for consumers came as refiners and retailers passed along earlier decreases in crude oil prices, Lundberg said. Increases in gasoline supply across the country and profit margins that Lundberg called "healthy" gave the refiners and retailers leeway to take pump prices down.

%VIRTUAL-pullquote-Consumers are winners at this point. It is a big historical discount to last year.%Compared with one year ago, the $2.44 average price was lower by $1.02 a gallon.

"Consumers are winners at this point," survey publisher Trilby Lundberg said. "It is a big historical discount to last year."

The latest decline came despite crude oil prices having gone up between surveys, she said.

Gas prices could slip another 4 to 10 cents in coming weeks, as long as crude prices do not surge, Lundberg said. "The price trend is probably still down from here."

Production costs for many refiners across the country should go lower because many will see anti-smog regulations ease on Sept. 15 allowing them to operate in the winter with higher vapor pressures than in the summer, she said.

Drivers in Indianapolis saw one of the biggest declines in the last three weeks in the survey area, which covers the 48 contiguous states. Gas prices there fell 73 cents to $2.13 a gallon as BP's (BP) Whiting, Indiana, refinery came back online following repairs, Lundberg said.

The lowest average price, as in the previous survey, was in Charleston, South Carolina, and the highest was again in Los Angeles. The latest prices in Charleston were $1.94, compared with $3.31 in Los Angeles.
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