By Johnny Jackson
Average gas prices, according to AAA Auto Club South, are holding steady around the state.
Consumers are paying an average of $2.72 per gallon of regular, unleaded gas statewide, and in metro Atlanta, according to AAA's Fuel Gauge Report. The report shows Georgians have been seeing similar price trends over the past couple of weeks.
AAA reported national, average gas prices have receded this week by about a penny per gallon on regular, unleaded gas, from $2.82 on Monday to $2.81 on Tuesday. The metro-Atlanta average remained the same over the two-day period.
The steady average is due, in part, to slight declines in crude oil prices, according to AAA Auto Club South Spokeswoman Jessica Brady. Crude oil closed out last week, ending on Friday, at $80.68 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, down from $81.24 per barrel the week before.
"It's not surprising to see the price of crude close lower than it did last week," Brady said. "Not only did a report show consumer sentiment is down for the month of March, but basic fundamentals do not support these high prices."
Brady noted that a U.S. Energy Department report revealed the nation's fuel consumption decreased by 4.2 percent -- more than expected -- for the week of March 8 through 12. She said it was 7.8 percent lower than the five-year average for the second week in March.
The U.S. dollar also strengthened against the euro last week, and made crude oil less appealing to investors, she added.
"A stronger dollar, coupled with a report that shows U.S. fuel consumption is down, is a cocktail that is sure to bring down the price of crude oil," Brady said. "We may see retail gas prices decline a few cents this week in response to the lower crude price and this should help postpone $3 gasoline from becoming a common sight in the Southeast."
Consumers using the consumer-driven, online pricing tool, AtlantaGasPrices.com, have already reported $3 gas prices at a few gas stations in northern and central metro Atlanta. However, the web site listed several area gas stations as among those with the region's least expensive gas, including Sam's Club in Morrow and QuikTrip at Hudson Bridge Road in Stockbridge.