The $3.07 price per gallon in the Tri-Cities on Wednesday was the lowest since Valentine's Day 2011, according to GasBuddy.com senior petroleum analyst Patrick DeHaan.
“I couldn't believe it,” said Dave Lankhorst of Grand Haven, who was filling up his car at the Wesco station in Spring Lake on Wednesday. “I'm only down to half a tank, but I had to fill up. I know it's going to jump any minute.”
Lankhorst may be right. If history is any indication, those low prices could begin to tick upward faster than a jolly plump man can scurry up a chimney.
In 2011, gas prices hit their lowest level for the year on Dec. 20. That's one year ago today.
“Last year, it bottomed out at $3.16 and the next day it was $3.32,” DeHaan said.
Will history repeat?
DeHaan said market wholesale prices jumped 4 cents by late Wednesday morning. That's an indication gas station owners may soon follow.
Gas prices have been on an overall downward slide since fall, said DeHaan, who lives in Grand Rapids and commutes to the Gasbuddy.com offices in Chicago.
“We've seen wholesale prices go down and that has allowed prices at the pump to drop rather nicely,” he explained. “But it wouldn't surprise me if we see an increase, a price spike just before Christmas. Retail prices have outpaced wholesale, with station owners bringing their prices down.”
This week's lowest prices of the year may be short-lived. Historically, prices jump about 10 cents per gallon between Christmas Day and mid-January, according to DeHaan.
“We could be very close to as good as it gets at the pump right now,” he said. “Demand has been down because of the cooler weather and consumers have been using less gasoline.”
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, gas inventories continue to swell.
“That's been a contributing factor (to lower prices),” DeHaan said. “There's so much gasoline, especially in the Great Lakes region, that it has allowed prices to be among the lowest in the country.”
The Tri-Cities area's $3.07 average bested both the national ($3.25) and state ($3.16) averages on Wednesday.
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