Long Islanders are getting a break this fall with the lowest gasoline prices in almost a year and heating oil prices that are 7 percent below a year ago.
But experts say rising demand for gasoline and shrinking supplies could halt the decline and even increase prices again.
Regular gasoline averaged $3.518 a gallon Thursday morning on Long Island, the AAA said. Prices haven't been in the $3.50s since last January. A year ago, the average was $4.121, amid shortages from superstorm Sandy.
The website Gasbuddy.com, whose information is based on motorist reports, Thursday showed prices for regular in Nassau and Suffolk as low as $3.02 a gallon.
In a short-term energy outlook issued Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Energy forecast that gasoline prices nationally would average 3.6 percent lower this year than last and, next year, average 3.1 percent lower than this year.
Government numbers in recent weeks suggest that Americans have increased their driving as gasoline prices have slipped lower. The energy department reported Thursday that gasoline supplies nationally fell last week to the lowest level in almost a year.
"I'm expecting gasoline prices over the next couple of weeks to tick up another five to 10 cents," said Andy Lipow, president of Houston consulting company Lipow Oil Associates LLC.
Heating oil from full service dealers on Long Island averaged $3.999 a gallon on Monday, the state Energy Research and Development Authority said, compared with $4.304 a year earlier. It was the first time since June that the average has been less than $4.
The energy department has forecast a 5 percent drop in heating oil prices this winter from last, but a 3 percent increase in consumption because weather forecasters expect a colder winter than last for the Northeast.
The lower fuel prices this fall resulted largely from receding crude oil prices amid ample supplies, combined with a lower "fear factor" than during the summer, when instability in Egypt and Syria raised concerns of disruptions in supplies of crude oil from the Middle East.
Benchmark U.S. crude oil had fallen from a recent high of $110.53 a barrel on Sept. 6 to as low as $93.37. It settled Thursday at $93.76 a barrel.
Also working in drivers' and homeowners' favor have been relatively few refinery issues this fall and no hurricanes that affected oil and products production in the U.S. Gulf, Lipow said. So, supplies of fuels for gas tanks and oil burners have been ample.
With Bloomberg News