Like the stock markets, the price of crude oil also appears to be in a free fall, according to financial reports. But unlike the fall of stock prices, the collapse of crude oil prices should put smiles on the faces motorists headed to the gas pumps.
“There’s just no question that the tumble of crude oil prices should foreshadow further steep declines in the price of gas,” says Martha Mitchell Meade, Manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic.
As an indication of things to come, national retail price averages dropped more than a nickel overnight to $3.35 per gallon, according to AAA.
“In early trading this morning, crude oil futures plunged to $79.50, and at one point after the opening bell they traded for as little as $78.61 a barrel. This can only mean great news for motorists at the pump,” adds Meade. “Just a few weeks ago the question concerning gas prices was ‘how high will they go?’ Today, the only question is, ‘how low will they go?’
“Seeing is believing for motorists, as the price of self-serve unleaded regular dipped below $3 a gallon in many metropolitan markets and is officially below the $3 mark in Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. The last time crude oil prices hovered at the $80 mark, pump prices were below $3 a gallon. OPEC’s bad news should be great news for motorists.”
The price of crude oil is the single biggest component of retail gas prices, accounting for 72 percent of the price of gas in the first half of 2008.
“So there’s no question that as crude prices tumble, gas prices will follow. It could be an unexpected windfall for motorists trying to find any good news in this economic crisis,” says Meade.
The price of gasoline had fallen to $3.31 a gallon in Virginia as of 3:00 a.m. Friday morning. That’s down six cents overnight and 23 cents a gallon since a month ago, when the average price was $3.54 a gallon. At the same time, the price of gasoline is still 66 cents higher than it was at this time last year when it was going for $2.65 a gallon.
As a result, motorists are still driving less with each passing month. For example, U.S. gasoline consumption slid five percent last week to the lowest level seen since September 2005, according to the MasterCard SpendingPulse report issued Tuesday. Meade explains that weakening demand for fuel, as citizens curtail driving, is a major catalyst for the falling prices.