The statewide average for a gallon of unleaded was $3.35 a gallon, said Tom Crosby, a spokesman for the motor club based in Charlotte, N.C. That price is down about 8 cents from a week ago, 13 cents from a month ago and 29 cents from Memorial Day 2011.
The motor club will compile its pre-Memorial Day gas report today, and Crosby said that may show that the price in the state has moved up a penny or two. Many stations raise prices heading into a busy travel weekend, he said.
“They think they are going to get some extra traffic leading into the holiday. But it’s usually just a small bump,” he said. “Usually there is not a huge increase of a nickel or so.”
Earlier this year, tourism officials were worried that gas might be more than $4 a gallon in the state by the time the summer travel season started. But, for a number of reasons, that hasn’t happened.
Worries about Iran interrupting oil supplies from the Middle East have eased; the Chinese economy, which had sent demand up, has cooled a bit; and challenges to the Euro and concern about European debt have also eased speculation in oil futures.
Earlier this year, oil was selling for $105 a barrel, Crosby said. On Monday benchmark oil was selling at about $92 a barrel in New York.
Tourism is a $15 billion industry in South Carolina, and Crosby predicts prices will continue to drop as long as there is no change in the world situation.
“I think another 10- or 15-cent drop is not unlikely,” he said, adding though that prices are volatile and subject to quick changes.
“Hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico are a big worry this time of year” because they can affect the output from refineries, he said. “Even the threat of a hurricane can affect gas prices in the Carolinas.”
While he expects prices will remain relatively low, he sees little chance of a return to $3 a gallon gas.
“That would be a pretty precipitous drop. I don’t foresee that, although everybody likes that three-dollar benchmark. But I think we’re not going to get there,” he said.