Gas Prices Start Falling Across U.S.

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Oct. 20 2012 2:54 PM

Gas Prices Start Falling Across the Country

A driver fills up her tank at a gas station in Alhambra, east of downtown Los Angeles

Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/GettyImages

Looks like it isn’t just the job numbers that are giving President Obama some breathing room as November approaches. Gas prices have started trending downward after reaching a record high this fall amid shortages and political volatility in the Middle East. But now inventories are rising and demand is dropping, which means prices could decrease 50 cents a gallon, from the high of $3.86 seen this month, over the next few weeks, reports USA Today. Gas now averages $3.72 a gallon, which is expected to drop to $3.35 by late November.

The drop is largely seasonal as gas prices decline every fall when oil producers switch to a cheaper blend of gasoline and demand drops, points out the Christian Science Monitor. This year that usual decline has been delayed by around a month but it looks like it’s finally coming. More important than national averages for the election could be the gas prices in key swing states, where prices are mostly lower, points out Rick Newman in U.S. News & World Report.

Although gas prices are only one factor in the larger economy, they do have a way of playing “an outsized effect on consumer psyches,” points out Newman, “depressing confidence when they’re going up and boosting contentment when they’re going down.”


Meanwhile, talks to economists who say President Obama’s claim during Tuesday’s debate that gas prices have increased since 2008 because of an improving economy is, at best, an exaggeration. Although it’s true, gas prices go down during a recession, other factors, such as refining costs and oil supply, play a much bigger role.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.



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