By Johnny Jackson
As many expected, gas prices are still relatively high this Christmas. And AAA Auto Club South officials say they are not likely to increase or decrease for the remainder of this week.
On Monday, national gas prices averaged $2.97 per gallon of regular unleaded gas - still, more than 60 cents higher than Christmas Eve 2006. The prices are slightly lower, though, than the near-record prices recorded about a month ago.
In metro Atlanta Monday, average gas prices were well below the national average. Metro Atlantans paid an average $2.88 for a gallon of regular unleaded gas, still 65 cents more than this time a year ago, but 27 cents below the $3.15 record set on May 23, 2007.
Analysts forecast that a slowing economy may curb long-term fuel consumption, and inclement weather may reduce some travel this week, said Randy Bly, AAA Auto Club South spokesman.
It could mean that fuel prices would remain virtually unchanged this week, despite a record number of travelers - some 65 million - projected for Christmas week.
Many of the nation's travelers, about 16.7 million people, will be from the Southeast. And about 80 percent of them are planning road trips of 50 miles or more.
"[But] moderate weather in the Northeast helps reduce demand for heating oil and that, in turn, eases pressure on refineries," Bly said.
AAA Auto Club South officials anticipate that more than 2.1 million Georgians are traveling this Christmas with 1.7 million of them traveling by car.