Gasoline prices were holding pretty steady in Grayson County this week, mirroring state and national trends.
After flirting briefly with the $3.41 per gallon price point at a couple of stations over the weekend, prices in Leitchfield had risen to an average $3.43 per gallon by Tuesday morning. Stations in Caneyville and Clarkson were also selling unleaded at similar prices.
That’s down from about $3.89 per gallon at many Leitchfield stations in late April and early May.
Kentucky’s statewide average price rose slightly Tuesday, to $3.429 per gallon, up from $3.427 the day before, according to GasBuddy.com. Still, the price was a welcome change from last month or even this week in June 2011, when unleaded was selling for about $3.57 per gallon.
And as is usually the case, prices have fallen farther in neighboring communities, according to personal observations and pricing information from GasBuddy.com.
Prices Tuesday ranged from $3.29 per gallon in Hardinsburg to $3.29 to $3.33 per gallon in the Elizabethtown and Radcliff area. A gallon of unleaded was selling for $3.27 to $3.39 in Owensboro, and about $3.26 at most Bowling Green stations.
The only spot that matched Grayson County prices was Morgantown, where a gallon of unleaded was going for $3.39 to $3.49 depending on the service station.
Nationwide, gasoline prices continued to fall for the ninth straight week, the U.S. Energy Department said, as oil flirted with eight-month lows.
The U.S. average price for a gallon of regular gasoline fell 5.7 cents to $3.612, according to the Energy Department’s weekly survey of service stations.
“An impressive decline in average gasoline prices will now be extended as the West Coast begins to see lower prices in the days ahead,” said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com, which tracks fuel prices. “Motorists will continue to see prices sliding east of the Rockies.”
U.S. oil prices fell to $81.21 a barrel Monday — the lowest level since Oct. 6, 2011 — before rallying to close at $83.98 on hopes that the European Union might finally pull out of its long-running debt and fragile banking system problems.
Phil Flynn, senior market analyst for Price Futures Group Inc. in Chicago, said oil had foundered early because of signs that the Chinese and U.S. economic recoveries were losing steam. Predictions that the United States this week would post its first decline in oil supplies in 12 weeks contributed to Monday’s late-day rally, he said, adding that the 75 cent-per-barrel price increase might be short-lived.
“We’re not out of the woods yet in terms of the world’s continuing economic problems,” Flynn said.
In late March gasoline prices suddenly rocketed up statewide, topping $4 a gallon in Louisville. They climbed more slowly in Grayson County, but did jump 21 cents per gallon to top out at about $3.89 — where they had seemingly stalled from about mid-April on.
While higher, those spikes echoed what was happening with gasoline prices nationwide at that point. Tensions in the Middle East, where a possible showdown with Iran had driven speculators to push crude oil prices up sharply since the start of the year, had led to predictions that gas this summer would top the record $4.11 a gallon average set in July 2008.
Analysts predict prices could fall even more in the weeks ahead, and said even if they do rise in July and August, they are likely to remain well below the $4 or $5 per gallon that some observers had feared.
“Gas prices are still historically high, but it’s starting to feel cheap by comparison to where we were just months ago,” said Jason Toews of GasBuddy.com.
He and other analysts said they expect prices to continue falling into June, possibly by as much as 10 cents per gallon, before rising again later in the summer.
Of course, reality could throw a wrench into such predictions.
“You have a couple of wild cards in the middle of the summer” that could trigger significant price fluctuations, said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service. Among them: economic instability and a looming election in Greece, fears of a recession in Europe, the arrival of hurricane season, and tensions over sanctions against Iran, which has threatened to disrupt Middle East oil supplies.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.