One facet of life merits a smile in Berkshires: low gas prices

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PITTSFIELD — While most residents of the Berkshires and beyond hunker down to wait out the new coronavirus, those who do venture out might have noticed something else going down: gas prices.

The cost of a gallon of gasoline has dropped significantly recently amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but it has been hard for motorists to take advantage of the decline because the practice of social distancing has limited travel.

In Massachusetts, gas prices have fallen a steep 21 cents per gallon since March 2, including an additional 11 cents this week, leaving the average price for a gallon of unleaded regular at $2.05, according to AAA Northeast.

Yet, that price still is more than a nickel higher than the national average for unleaded regular, which, on Tuesday, was $1.99 per gallon, according to AAA. The previous time the average national gas price fell below $2 per gallon was March 23, 2016, according to GasBuddy.

In the Pittsfield metropolitan area, which includes the entire Berkshire County region, the average price for a gallon of unleaded regular was $2.05 on Tuesday, according to AAA. But, some stations are selling gas at much lower prices. Last week, a station on Elm Street in Pittsfield was offering unleaded regular at $1.85 per gallon. And the cost can be even cheaper for residents through supermarket promotions and memberships.

Statewide, the price of a gallon of unleaded regular this week ranged from $1.72 to $2.75. In the Pittsfield metro area Tuesday, prices for a gallon of unleaded regular ranged from $2 to $2.05, according to AAA.

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To put this recent price drop in perspective, the average price for a gallon of unleaded regular in Massachusetts at this time last year was 48 cents higher, at $2.53. In the Pittsfield area, the average price for unleaded regular was $2.43 per gallon last month and $2.14 last week

The decline in gas prices is expected to continue.

"This week, the national gas price will drop below $2 per gallon for the first time in four years and it won't stop there as demand for gasoline diminishes as Americans stay home," said AAA Northeast spokeswoman Mary Maguire.

"Crude oil continues to price low — in the $20-per-barrel range — as U.S. gasoline demand decreases to numbers typically seen during the winter driving season," she said.

GasBuddy predicts that the average national gas price could fall as far as $1.49 per gallon by the middle of April, which would be the lowest price since 2004.

"World demand for oil has plummeted virtually overnight while domestic demand for gasoline continues to fall off a cliff with more states implementing shelter-in-place orders," said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy. "Prices will continue to fall in the days ahead with currently no end in sight."

Tony Dobrowolski can be reached at tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6224.


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