After rising for 40 consecutive days, gas prices have now fallen for nine days in a row to today's national average of $2.42 per gallon, according to the latest Fuel Gauge Report from AAA.
The report shows that today's average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline is three cents less than it was one week ago, but 18 cents more than one month ago. Compared to this same date last year, consumers are saving an average of $1.09 per gallon at the pump.
AAA says that gas prices may continue to drop in the near future due to a steep decline in the cost of crude oil. Crude oil prices declined by more than 10 percent last week due to abundant supplies, a stronger U.S. dollar, and the possibility of even more oil entering the market soon.
According to AAA, every $10 per barrel decline in the cost of crude oil can send prices at the pump down by as much as 25 cents per gallon.
AAA points out that gas prices tend to move higher this time of year because refineries conduct planned maintenance, which can limit fuel production. Refineries are also beginning to transition to summer-blend fuel in advance of the May 1 deadline. As part of this process, refineries draw down current inventories of winter-blend fuel, which can further constrain supplies.
The report shows that the West Coast is still the nation's most expensive region for retail gasoline. Motorists in California ($3.37) continue to pay the most at the pump, and gas prices in the golden state are expected to remain relatively high due to lingering limited supply.
California is followed by Hawaii ($3.14), Alaska ($2.91), Nevada ($2.87) and Oregon ($2.86) as the states with the highest gas prices. On the other end of the spectrum, drivers in South Carolina ($2.14), Indiana ($2.19) and Tennessee ($2.19) are paying the least per gallon to refuel their vehicles.
AAA expects gas prices to remain relatively cheap in the coming months because crude oil costs are currently much lower than in recent years. On top of that, U.S. inventories have risen for nine straight weeks, which should also keep downward pressure on prices at the pump.