Woodward, Okla. —
OKLAHOMA CITY - Officials believe gas prices may see some additional decreases, or at least remain stable, over the remaining winter.
However, several fuel analysts had been predicted lower prices that weren't realized in some areas last month. For example, Chuck Mai, director of public affairs for AAA Oklahoma, said AAA analysts had anticipated the cost of regular unleaded to fall below $3 in Woodward by the end of Dec. 2012. But prices only hit a low around $3.13 in the area.
The problem, Mai said, is that there are a variety of factors that go into analyzing fuel prices which can sometimes make cost predictions a challenge.
"Predicting the price of gas is like determining odds for the World Series," he said. "Many factors - the economy and the fuel supply, for example - influence the price. It's like trying to nail a feather to a wall."
REMAINING WINTER PREDICTIONS GOOD, AAA SAID
Nevertheless, analysts are confident that the short-term outlook, covering the next 3 months or so, is favorable for keeping prices down or even dropping somewhat.
Mai said gas in 2013 will be less expensive than last year due to increased production and less demand.
Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum monitor for the online gas price database GasBuddy.com, agreed that more fuel production will help to keep prices down.
DeHaan said a recent build up in gasoline inventories could interrupt what had become an annual trend where in 6 out of the last 7 years, U.S. retail gasoline prices have risen from Christmas Day through mid-January.
"WIth an increase over last month of 16.1 million barrels, that's 7 percent more, the gasoline inventory now exceeds the highest level reached during 2012 and the highest point since February 2011," he said.
DeHaan said a lower demand during the holidays and an increase in production likely supported the inventory rise.
CURRENT PRICES ON GASBUDDY.COM
GasBuddy.com depends on volunteer gas price spotters from the public to post local prices for different communities.
Thursday's GasBuddy.com reports show the $3.13 figure at Love's on Williams Ave. and Murphy USA on 1st St., next to Wal-Mart.
Love's at 2701 Oklahoma Ave., Jiffy Trip at 1712 Downs and Shell at 110 E. Oklahoma Ave. were at $3.14. Conoco, 2728 Williams Ave., and Shell, 3710 Oklahoma Ave., stood at $3.15.
Mooreland prices are also still above $3, with $3.11 at Conoco on U.S. 412 West, $3.13 at Jiffy Trip on South Main and $3.15 at Shell on SW 6th at Main.
However, Enid has broke through the $3 line, GasBuddy.com reported Thursday, as the price range was $2.92 to $2.99.
No site in Oklahoma City was higher than $2.81, and the lowest was $2.73.
According to GasBuddy.com, the Oklahoma average was $2.936 on Thursday, while the national average was at $3.27.
SPRING MAY BRING UPWARD INFLUENCES
Despite the current favorable outlook, both Mai and DeHaan were cautious about what will happen to prices with the arrival of Spring.
"In March, the economy will be trying to get over the 'fiscal cliff,' and refining methods will be switching to more-expensive summer formulas," Mai said.
He said that retail gas prices for the year, however, will still be lower than in 2012, thanks to continuing brisk production and less demand.
"You could say the current situation is the calm before the storm that arrives every spring, with the change in refining procedures," DeHaan said. "But having said that, we're confident that our forecast, specifically for January, will prove accurate, with the median price nationally … to be at less than the current $3.27."
More information may be found by going to www.FuelGaugeReport.AAA.com or checking GasBuddy.com's site.