Drivers got some good news Tuesday as the federal government reduced its forecast for spring and summer gasoline prices by 16 cents a gallon amid falling crude oil prices and weak demand.
The U.S. Department of Energy predicted that regular gasoline would average $3.79 a gallon nationally from April through September, 16 cents less than it expected a month ago, though still 9 cents higher than last summer's average.
On Long Island, where prices tend to be higher than the national average, they continue to fall, with regular averaging $4.04 a gallon Tuesday, according to the AAA. That's 6.7 cents below a week earlier and 23.4 cents lower than a year earlier.
"From the consumer standpoint, we really dodged a bullet," said Stephen Schork, editor of The Schork Report, an energy newsletter published out of Villanova, Pa. "A month ago it certainly looked like we were in for a significant shock at the pump."
The Long Island average for regular peaked last year on May 12 at $4.284 for regular, fell to $3.541 on Dec. 26 and then climbed by more than 60 cents a gallon, to peak on April 10 at $4.169.
The record Long Island average for regular in the AAA survey is $4.346, set July 8, 2008.
Crude oil prices have been falling on strong supplies, a lessening of East-West tensions over Iran's nuclear program and, most recently, renewed concern that the European debt crisis will lead to significantly reduced demand for energy there. Schork says mediocre economic news in this country also has weakened oil prices.
U.S. benchmark crude oil settled Tuesday at $97.01, down 93 cents on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It had risen from as low as $96.36 a barrel Feb. 2 to as high as $109.77, on Feb. 24.
The government report was the second bit of good news in eight days for Long Island drivers; on April 30 a Dallas pipeline operator said it would buy a Sunoco refinery in Philadelphia that was slated for closure at the end of July, while Delta Air Lines said it would purchase a closed refinery in Pennsylvania from ConocoPhillips. Both refineries supplied the U.S. East Coast and traders had been worried about tight supplies here this summer.