Louisiana’s gasoline prices have fallen 25 cents in the last month and now sit at an average of $3.15 for a gallon of regular, the best prices since late December, according to AAA.
“It definitely makes a difference,” said Rhonda Aucoin, who was filling up at the B-Quik on Perkins Road Wednesday. “It was $60 to fill up the tank. Now it’s $44.”
GasBuddy.com, an online price-tracking community, and AAA’s Fuel Price Finder list three area stations selling regular for $3 a gallon: the Texaco at 6945 Florida Blvd., Sherwood Discount Mart at 2564 N. Sherwood Blvd., and One Stop Food Market at 7144 Greenwell Springs Road.
The price drop is being seen throughout the United States, according to AAA, a travel, insurance and automotive assistance not-for-profit. Nationally, the average price for a gallon of regular self-serve gasoline has dipped to $3.41; in the Baton Rouge metro area, it’s $3.14.
Motorists are benefitting from global economic conditions, including the European debt crisis; a slowdown in large, emerging markets such as Brazil, China and India; and concerns that the fighting in Syria could spread to neighboring countries and potentially disrupt the supply of oil, according to AAA. Those developments continue to lower the demand for oil worldwide.
Last week, the benchmark price for crude oil fell to less than $80 a barrel and prices remain around that level.
Meanwhile, the dollar remains relatively strong in relation to other currencies, which helps reduce oil prices in the United States, according to AAA. Last week, the Federal Reserve Board of Governors decided against increasing the money supply and lowered the short and medium-term projections of both inflation and economic growth. Both moves strengthened the dollar.
Cynthia Green, a self-employed Baton Rouge cook, estimates she spends $100 a week on gasoline, so the price matters to her.
Green’s fuel costs have gone down significantly since 2008, when gas prices soared to $4 a gallon. The difference can be as much as $25 a tank, she said.
Lynne Himmel said she has been spending around $100 to fill her sport utility vehicle, which requires her to use the more-expensive super unleaded.
But Himmel said she isn’t driving more because gas is cheaper. In fact, she’s driving less.
Last summer, she drove to Florida for a number of weekend stays, Himmel said. But this year, she is making fewer trips, but staying a week or so at a time.
Justin Alford, co-owner of the B-Quik Convenience Stores and Benny’s Car Wash chain, said the company isn’t seeing an increase in business because of lower gas prices yet. There’s usually a little lag time between a decrease in price and fuel sales.
The change may come with the Fourth of July week, he said.
AAA expects lower gas prices to fuel a travel boom for the holiday week, with more people driving on vacation and taking longer trips.
An estimated 42.3 million Americans will drive 50 miles or more from home during the holiday weekend, according to AAA. That’s 4.9 percent more people than last year and nearly 42 percent more than in 2009.
The 2012 Independence Day holiday travel volume is expected to tie the 2007 level, the highest mark in the last decade, according to AAA. The average trip is projected at 723 miles, up 150 miles from last year.
Alford, of Benny’s, said gas prices have been bouncing around a lot, higher one day and then lower the next. But he’s hoping gas continues to be more-affordable.
“No one wants to see it (the price) high, that’s for darn sure,” Alford said. “The lower the better for us and for our customers.”
“When prices are lower it’s usually, obviously, better for them (gas stations) because people have an extra few dollars to spend on coffee or a soda or a snack,” said Natalie Babin Isaacks, executive director of the Louisiana Oil Marketers & Convenience Store Association.
Don Redman, a spokesman for AAA, said there’s no doubt that cheap fuel acts as an economic stimulus.
Families spend $50 to $100 more a month on fuel when gas costs $3.50 or more per gallon, Redman said. That’s money that is ordinarily spent on other goods and services.