By Michael Roknick
Herald Business Editor
MERCER COUNTY —
There’s a little joy — a tiny little joy — for western Pennsylvania motorists this Fourth of July holiday as gas prices in the region fell two cents this week according to the latest AAA survey.
The average price for a gallon of self-serve, unleaded gas in the region was $3.513, AAA said, which is above the national average of $3.478 a gallon.
Gas prices nationally are 8 cents less expensive than one week ago and 14 cents less than one month ago, but remains 15 cents higher than last year. The national average has now declined for 19 straight days and 34 of the last 40.
Regional supply disruptions in May and early June propelled gas prices sharply higher in some parts of the country – first the Northwest and then the Midwest – even as retail prices in the rest of the country drifted lower. As these production and distribution issues were resolved, prices for states in the impacted regions have plummeted back to earth.
Gas prices across the country are finally moving lower leading up to the Fourth of July, which is welcome news for the 34.4 million travelers that AAA expects to travel by automobile this holiday period. Prices in all states have dropped over the last week, led by large declines in a number of Midwestern states.
The national average may continue to drift lower in the coming days, AAA said. However, crude oil prices remain substantially higher than last year and are likely to limit the amount that the national price will fall.
If history is any indicator, barring a decline in crude oil prices, gas prices may turn higher in July as the summer driving season ramps up, demand for gasoline increases and the hurricane season continues. The national average rose 17 cents a gallon in July 2011 and 16 cents in July 2012.
The price of West Texas Intermediate, known as WTI, has inched back from the multi-month high of $98.44 per barrel on June 18.
However it remains more than $10 above the price a year ago.
WTI settled at $83.75 a barrel to begin July last year. WTI closed Tuesday at $98.06, up 7 cents.
The following is a list of the average price of unleaded, self-serve gasoline according to AAA in various western Pennsylvania areas:
ä Mercer, $3.568
ä Sharon, $3.557
ä Meadville, $3.550
ä New Castle, $3.449