Gas prices inching lower after hurricanes

Gas prices starting to look a bit more like the seasonal norm as the U.S. energy sector picks up pieces after September hurricanes File photo by John Angelillo/UPI. | License Photo

By Daniel J. Graeber – UPI

Nate barely left a dent on the retail market even though some operations closed down as a precautionary measure.

Even though 90 percent of the oil production in the Gulf of Mexico was idled by Hurricane Nate, U.S. motorists will hardly notice, motor club AAA said.

Nate made landfall twice during the weekend, roughly one month after Hurricane Harvey dealt a blow to the dense networks of refineries in the southern United States. Harvey’s impact led to unseasonal spikes at the gas pump, though motor club AAA said in a weekly retail market report that Nate spared most of the energy sector.

“Gas prices have fallen steadily for the past four weeks and now we are seeing gasoline demand drop alongside prices,” AAA spokesperson Jeanette Casselano said in a statement. “The latest demand figures show the lowest since the week Hurricane Harvey hit and can likely be the beginning of a downward demand trend indicating even cheaper gas prices to come this fall.”

Any of the refineries closed as a precaution ahead of Nate are working back up by now and AAA said gasoline inventory levels in the southern states hit by Harvey are increasing for the first time since landfall.

AAA posts a national average price for regular unleaded gasoline at $2.49 per gallon, a slight decrease from Monday. Gas prices spiked at $2.69 on Sept. 11.

The Great Lakes region remains the most volatile market in the country. AAA said the 10 cent, or 4 percent, drop in gas prices in Michigan was the largest in the country on the week. Regional inventories for gasoline also dropped significantly, but remain on par with last year’s levels.

All states counted in the West Coast market are in the Top 10 for highest gas prices in the country, but those prices are also the least volatile. AAA said that’s because gasoline inventory levels are, at worst, steady.

The decline in gas prices also follows a decline in crude oil prices for most of October, which hints at a return to seasonal norms. The federal government said it expected gas prices to be around $2.40 for most of the month and drop to $2.23 per gallon by December.