Gas prices are below $2 at several area stations. STAFF PHOTO / WAYNE BAKER
Photo: Wayne Baker
Photo: Wayne Baker

Gas prices to remain low, but threats still loom

Gas prices have dropped nearly 50 cents in the past month, going below $2 at some area gas stations for the first time since July 2017 due to declining oil prices.

Area drivers can expect the cheaper costs to stick around for the next month or two, according to Gasbuddy analyst Patrick DeHaan.

“There may be a bump around Christmas time as travel picks up and that means demand will increase, but for the short term, I’m thinking that we’re going to see these prices low,” said Kara Hitchens, spokeswoman for Miami Valley AAA.

Oil prices have seen a drastic turnaround in the last month. Oil prices were about $76 a barrel at the beginning of October. On Friday morning, a barrel of oil was just over $50.

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“I would still tell motorists to shop around. We’re kind of in an active price decline environment, where Dayton prices are now 43 cents lower than where they were a month ago, some stations are passing along the savings much quicker,” DeHaan said.

Another reason for cheaper prices is the switch from summer- to winter-blend gasoline, which is cheaper to produce, Hitchens said. And the refineries have also finished their fall maintenance, increasing their supply, DeHaan said.

The supply and demand dynamic is a major driver of lower costs, he added. In 2014, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries decided to increase supply, driving prices lower until a 2016 decision to slow production. In July last year, the last time Ohio saw gas prices this low, those prices were on the slow rise and have been since.

But in June, OPEC scaled back their previous production cuts, increasing supply.

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The White House also issued waivers to countries to buy crude oil from Iran, despite sanctions that went in place earlier this month. News of the sanctions had previously sent oil costs soaring as experts anticipated a 2 million-barrel daily drop in supply.

OPEC said global oil demand growth will slow in 2019 amid consumer worries of trade tensions.

“We knew prices were going to go down, we didn’t know they were going to go down this much, but that’s a great thing, a good thing for consumers,” Hitchens said. “When consumers want to travel and gas prices are low, they’re more likely to travel and that money will help the economy.”

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Gas prices still haven’t hit their lowest potential, and DeHaan said there are some geopolitical issues that could throw gas prices in reverse.

OPEC will meet again Thursday, and many analysts anticipate the group will cut oil production, decreasing supply. President Donald Trump has urged the group not to decrease production and thanked Saudi Arabia for its role in preventing oil prices from spiking in recent months.

The waivers Trump gave to other nations to continue purchasing oil from Iran are also expected to be temporary, DeHaan said.

“There’s no word if Trump’s waivers will be extended, but as time progresses and those ‘temporary waivers’ start to seem more permanent, there could be action from the U.S. to throw out the waivers and basically start enforcing sanctions, which would be another blow to motorists because it may cause the price of oil to escalate further,” DeHaan said.

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