By Johnny Jackson
Columbus Day was beneficial to metro Atlantans with average gas prices dipping to $3.35 per gallon for regular unleaded on Monday.
Prices fell nine cents from Sunday, and 76 cents from this time in September, when metro Atlantans experienced record high gas prices above $4.
The current prices, however, are still much higher in metro Atlanta than across the state, and across much of the country. On Monday, prices averaged about $3.20 per gallon nationally as Georgians paid $3.32 per gallon.
"I think we're going to see gasoline dropping for the next couple of weeks," said Randy Bly, spokesman for AAA Auto Club South.
According to Bly, less over-all demand, and a weakening economy have helped lower both crude oil and retail prices. Inventories have also rebounded since hurricanes Gustav and Ike forced the closure of many Gulf Coast refineries, which led to panic buying that contributed to gas shortages in metro Atlanta.
"Dropping demand for fuel in the U.S., and other industrialized countries -- largely due to a weakening economy as a result of the current domestic and global financial crisis -- continues to drive the price of crude oil down with retail gasoline prices following," Bly added. "[However,] last week's report from the U.S Department of Energy indicate larger than expected fuel inventories and the lowest daily consumption of crude oil - 18.7 million barrels a day - since 1999."
That means, he said, that motorists can expect retail gasoline prices in metro Atlanta to continue to drop at a somewhat rapid rate this week. But crude oil prices are not expected to decline much more in the days to come. Oil producers may begin holding less inventory in order to adjust to the current demand.
On Monday, crude oil rose to more than $81 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX), compared to Friday's $77, which was the lowest closing price this year, and the lowest since October 2007.
"I do think retail gasoline prices will continue to drop this week and likely into next," he continued. "And I do think that Georgia's prices will eventually balance out to what it was prior to Gustav and Ike."