By Johnny Jackson
Travel experts anticipate gas prices to continue on a downward slope through the middle of March, barring any unforeseen events which would affect the cost of crude oil.
Average gas prices have fallen by 8 to 10 cents per gallon nationwide over the past month, according to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report. In Georgia, the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gas has dropped by 14 cents over the past month, while metro Atlanta prices have plunged 16 cents.
The report states that motorists in metro Atlanta are paying $2.50, on average, for a gallon of regular unleaded gas, down slightly from the $2.52 average on Feb. 1.
"We hope this will continue going into the spring," said Jessica Brady, a spokeswoman for AAA Auto Club South.
Brady said the trend downward for gas prices is marked by the decline in crude oil prices, which are affected by the value of the U.S. dollar.
"As long as the U.S. dollar continues its momentum in strength, crude oil prices should continue to drop as commodities, like crude, lose investor appeal," she said.
Global oil demand, she added, is forecast to take a dive in certain European countries like Greece, Portugal and Spain, on speculation that efforts to reduce deficits will curb economic recovery.
Brady said the euro recently dropped to an eight-month low, which pushed the value of the U.S. dollar higher. The result is a seven-week low in crude oil prices.
"As long as the U.S. dollar is maintaining its strength, we should see prices continue to fall," she said.
Gas prices are at the lowest they have been since the first of the year, according to AAA. Crude oil prices have also been incrementally lower during the first month of the year, landing at just over $71 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange at the end of last week.
Brady said she expects gas prices will begin rising toward the last half of March, as the effects of a recovering economy become more evident.
"I think we'll probably see demand increase in the summer months," she said, "and a little more than usual, which will help bolster the economy."