Gasoline prices are falling slowly amid improving supplies and weak demand.
Regular averaged $4.087 a gallon on Long Island Tuesday, the AAA said, down 4.4 cents from a week ago and down 7.1 cents from the recent peak of $4.158 on Oct. 3.
Meanwhile, MasterCard Inc. said Tuesday that American drivers bought almost 4 percent less gasoline last week than a year earlier, in apparent reaction to high prices. In the Central Atlantic region, which includes Long Island, the decrease in demand was 5.1 percent.
A temporary shortage of gasoline in the New York area has left Long Islanders coping with pump prices that are higher, rather than lower, than on Labor Day, despite predictions of relief with the end of the summer driving season. The Oct. 3 peak of $4.158 was almost 11 cents higher than the Labor Day price.
Industry analysts blamed the increase partly on the factors that caused gasoline prices to rise for most of the summer from a recent low of $3.63 a gallon on July 2: a shortage of refinery capacity to serve the East Coast resulting from the closures within the past year of three refineries -- one in the Caribbean and two in Pennsylvania.
That was compounded more recently by the aftereffects of Hurricane Isaac on refineries in Louisiana, plus downtime for scheduled and unscheduled maintenance and repair at other U.S. and European refineries that produce gasoline for the U.S. East Coast and by an explosion at Irving Oil Corp.'s refinery in St. John, New Brunswick.
Gasoline is now being produced at the Irving refinery and at the Trainer, Pa., facility that was bought by Delta Air Lines, said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for Wall, N.J.-based Oil Price Information Service.
He said recent short-term "spot market" and longer-term wholesale price decreases suggest that retail pump prices should drop in this region by between 10 and 25 cents over the next three weeks. "You're going to see noticeable changes in national and local numbers," he said.