By Johnny Jackson
Georgians continue to pay some of the lowest gas prices among travelers nationwide, but should expect prices to eventually reach a level between $2.50 and $2.75, gas-price watchers said, as the summer travel season approaches.
Georgians pay an average $1.92 per gallon of regular unleaded gas, compared to the nation's $2.03 average, according to AAA Auto Club South. States like New York and Illinois are already paying average costs above $2.10, while California is paying about $2.31 per gallon.
Metro Atlantans are paying the most in the state for gas, at $1.94 per gallon, but still much less than other states and metropolitan areas around the country and much less than the $4.11 record set on Sept. 16, 2008.
News of increasing initial unemployment claims may have signaled to oil market investors that the economic recession may be nearing its bottom-out phase, according to Gregg Laskoski, a spokesman for AAA Auto Club South.
Crude oil closed Friday at $52.51 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, a gain of 13 cents per barrel over the previous week's closing price of $52.38.
On the market, there has been little movement in crude oil futures prices and little change in gasoline supply or consumer demand, Laskoski said. Thus, retail gasoline prices have flattened.
"There's not an awful lot out of the ordinary," Laskoski said. "We do expect to see gradual increases with the tightening of supply ... due largely to the supply-and-demand fundamentals that always contribute to an upward trend for fuel prices at this time of year.
"Refinery output has been unremarkable," he added. "But, we've seen notable gains on Wall Street and any surge in consumer demand, which we're likely to see as we approach Memorial Day weekend, could push prices higher."
Laskoski said he expects prices will not reach more than $3 per gallon, peaking instead between $2.50 and $2.75. The lower gas price average would be partly the result of less demand during the travel season.
"We should expect to see more leisure travelers stay closer to home," he said. "It makes a lot of sense to investigate your options online. Investigate what is available through the local convention and visitors' bureau. That way, you'll find, in one area, all of the special deals and accommodations that may exist for your vacation."