The average price for gasoline likely will drop this year, thanks in part to increased oil production in the United States, a leading federal energy agency and travel club AAA predict.
In 2012, the average price for regular gas rose to $3.63 per gallon nationwide, up by 10 cents from a year earlier, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That's partly because of problems at the nation's aging oil refineries that reduced their gasoline output, energy analysts said.
This year, though, the average price should slip to $3.44 per gallon nationwide, the energy agency and AAA said. Contributing to the drop: more U.S. oil and gasoline output and more fuel-efficient vehicles.
Lower gas prices would be welcome news for Florida consumers who face a torrent of other rising costs this year, from payroll taxes to electricity rates and home insurance premiums.
Still, don't expect immediate relief at the pump.
"While gas is forecast to cost less this year, motorists will see prices inch up in the short term, before they stabilize and/or retreat," said Jessica Brady, AAA spokeswoman in her weekly gas price statement released Sunday night..
On Monday, the price for regular gas in Broward County averaged $3.49 per gallon and in Palm Beach County, $3.53 per gallon, each up about 3 cents from last week, AAA said.
Risks also abound that could challenge the forecast for lower gasoline prices, warns Gregg Laskoski, senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy.com in Tampa.
For example, conflict in the Middle East could send crude oil prices surging. Hurricanes and other weather conditions could reduce U.S. refinery output. Washington's action on tackling deficit issues will influence the value of the dollar; a weaker dollar will mean higher prices for oil, said Laskoski.
"We are in an energy boom in North America," with new oil reserves found in west Texas, Canada and the Gulf of Mexico and strong inventories in U.S. oil stockpiles, all suggesting a gasoline price dip, Laskoski said. "But an awful lot of things have to fall into place for us to see lower gas prices on average for the year."
One factor reducing pressure on gas prices: improved fuel-efficiency for vehicles. The Obama administration has mandated that carmakers provide average fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon by their 2025 model year, or nearly double 2011 levels.
Average U.S. price for regular gas
2011: $3.53 per gallon
2012: $3.63 per gallon
2013: $3.44 per gallon
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration
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