Local gasoline prices could plunge another 25 cents over the next six weeks, potentially dropping to the lowest levels in nearly two years.
AAA Southern New England made that prediction following an 18-cent decrease in September resulting in a current state average of $3.47 for a gallon of regular unleaded, according to the regional travel agency.
Barring a major man-made or natural catastrophe, AAA and local gasoline retailers expect the downward spiral in gas prices to continue into November.
"I don't see why not, but it only takes another eruption in the Middle East and we see the prices go back up," said Michael Lipton, vice president of Lipton Energy. The Pittsfield-based fuel distributor operates seven convenience store/gas stations in Pittsfield, Lee, Lenox, and North Adams.
Several Pittsfield-area gas stations are close to the state figure, ranging from $3.45 to $3.50, and among the cheapest prices in the Berkshires, according to an informal survey by The Eagle. In North and South County, most prices remain 5 to 15 cents higher than the state average.
If gasoline prices drop an additional quarter before Thanksgiving, a $3.22 per gallon average would be the lowest in Massachusetts since reaching the $3.12 mark in mid-December 2011, AAA officials said.
A strong national supply of crude oil and gasoline, a lack of major hurricanes impacting East and Gulf coast refineries, along with eased tension between the U.S. and Syrian governments, are among key reasons gasoline prices fell 18 cents after the summer vacation season ended last month, according to regional AAA officials.
"The demand also drops off after Labor Day as kids go back to school and there are no day trips to beaches," noted Mary Maguire, AAA spokeswoman for Massachusetts.
Another factor is the changeover to the winter blend of gasoline, which is cheaper, she said.
Despite gasoline prices spiking 25 cents in July to an average $3.71 entering August, Lipton says that didn't discourage motorists from hitting the road this summer.
"Sales were up for us over last summer," he said. "People were traveling more as the economy makes a comeback."
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