Not so fast. That’s the message for drivers hoping a recent drop in oil prices will soon show up at the gas station.
Oil has dropped $9 per barrel, or 9.1 percent, in less than two weeks. Gas prices tend to lag changes in oil, but experts don’t expect a significant move lower until the middle of October.
Oil ended at $89.98 on Wednesday, down $1.39, or 1.5 percent. The national average price for gas was $3.805 per gallon, a record high for this time of year, and up 31 cents from the same date last year.
Gas prices should be at a record for early October when President Obama debates Republican challenger Mitt Romney next week in Denver. The focus of the debate will be on the economy and domestic policy. High gas prices usually cut into consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of economic activity.
Gas has remained stubbornly high although economic growth is tepid and demand for gasoline is lower than a year ago. Oil rose about 25 percent from late June through late August. More recently, refinery issues have tightened the supply of gas. And there are lingering effects from Hurricane Isaac, which disrupted refineries and imported oil deliveries along the Gulf Coast.
Prices are at or above $4 per gallon in Alaska, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, New York and Washington, according to AAA, Wright Express and the Oil Price Information Service. The lowest prices, which range from $3.546 per gallon to $3.656 per gallon, are in Texas, the lower Midwest and the South.
It probably will be a few more weeks before supplies build back up in certain markets and lead to a noticeable decline in pump prices, said Tom Kloza, the chief oil analyst at Oil Price Information Service.
He predicted that gas would drop into a range between $3.25 per gallon to $3.50 per gallon by Thanksgiving. The highest price voters ever paid while heading to the polls falls in that range: $3.41 on Nov. 8, 2011.
Oil last closed below $90 per barrel on Aug. 2. Wednesday’s drop came as protests in Greece and Spain offered reminders that Europe still is struggling to resolve its debt crisis. The protests are occurring ahead of spending cuts and tax increases designed to help those countries control debt. Such austerity measures crimp the need for oil and oil byproducts.
Brent crude, which is used to price international varieties of oil, fell 41 cents to $110.04 per barrel in London.
Other futures prices on the New York Mercantile Exchange:
• Heating oil was flat at $3.1068 per gallon.
• Wholesale gasoline rose 11.4 cents to end at $3.08 per gallon.
• Natural gas gained 9.9 cents to $3.023 per 1,000 cubic feet.