Dec. 17–Though gas prices inched up over the week in Southwest Florida, a predicted record number of holiday travelers still should see the lowest prices in two years.
The average price for a gallon of regular gas in the Bradenton-Sarasota-Venice market was $2.23 on Monday, AAA reported, a gain of 5 cents.
But gas prices have declined about 50 cents in the past two months, and AAA said they could dip another 10 cents before the end of the year.
Drivers are saving an average of $7.50 for a full tank of gasoline compared with the summer.
“Holiday travelers will have more jingle in their pockets after they fill up the family vehicle,” AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins said. “Prices are already at two-year lows for the holidays and should slip even lower in the next two weeks. Oil prices have been unable to gain significant upward momentum after OPEC announced plans to cut production. The price of crude declined last week and should drop again this week because industry analysts are skeptical that OPEC’s plan could re-balance what is currently an oversupplied market.
“If oil prices drop even further this week, that would reduce the cost of producing gasoline and allow additional price cuts at the pump,” he said.
A record 5.9 million Floridians — 266,000 more than last year — are expected to travel during the Christmas holiday, which is defined this year as from Dec. 22 through Dec. 26. That includes 5.3 million who will hit the road, 319,000 who will fly and another 219,680 who will travel by bus, train or other means at least 50 miles from home.
Nationwide, 112.5 million people are forecast to travel over the holiday, up by 5 million from 2017. Orlando is the most popular destination.
“Low gas prices and a strong economy continue to drive up demand for seasonal travel,” Jenkins said.
At local pumps, gas prices are 12 cents lower than a year ago.
Gas prices throughout Florida averaged $2.29 per gallon on Monday. The U.S. average was $2.37.
Drivers in Panama City, hit hard by Hurricane Michael during October, paid the most in Florida, at $2.63. The cheapest gas was in The Villages, at $2.17.
U.S. prices have now declined for 10 straight weeks, and 31 states have at least one station selling gasoline under $2 per gallon, said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy.
“Oil prices have been slow to react to a cut in oil production from OPEC, instead focusing on economic concerns and trade tensions with China,” he said. “Thus far, it seems that it ‘may take a village’ to help oil prices recover, help that would include robust demand from the U.S., which seems to be anything but the case. For now, prices will remain seasonally challenged, tied to the fact or expected fate of the economy moving forward.”
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