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Omaha's gas prices could continue to drop

Omaha's gas prices could continue to drop

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These are big “ifs’’ — but if industry and economic factors continue to tamp down the cost of gasoline, and if the Mideast remains relatively peaceful, gas prices in the Omaha area may drop even more.

The average price Friday for a gallon of regular unleaded in Omaha was $2.98, well under Nebraska’s average of $3.07, said Gregg Laskoski, senior petroleum analyst for Gasbuddy.com.

Iowa’s average price was $3.13, well below the national average of $3.28 a gallon.

Three Omaha-area filling stations were selling regular unleaded for as low as $2.87 a gallon Friday. It was selling for $2.89 at 27 other Omaha locations.

Motorists can thank the decline to a drop in the price of a barrel of oil, Laskoski said.

“Crude oil prices are down significantly,’’ he said. “And this is a pretty significant trend that was expected.’’

Oil was trading Friday for $95 to $96 a barrel, which is below the $111 price of a few months ago when the threat of a U.S. strike against Syria hovered over the world’s economy.

Laskoski said the gas-price drop was expected after prices fell below $100 a barrel Oct. 21, a turning point. They had been above the $100 mark for 111 consecutive days.

Also, “it’s the time of year,’’ Laskoski said, referring to the timeframe when winter-blended fuel, which is cheaper to produce because it contains fewer additives, is shipped from U.S. refineries.

So what else has knocked down the Omaha area’s average price for regular unleaded by 9 cents a gallon in a week, 22 cents in a month and 41 cents in a year?

Gasoline inventories, due to traditionally lower consumer demand after Labor Day, and refinery production numbers are both up, he said, and that leads to lower prices.

And a market the size of the Omaha area can lead to lower prices, Laskoski said, because a large population base means volume purchasing, which breeds a competitive atmosphere for pricing.

Some analysts believe oil prices will drop even more, forcing down pump prices by 10 to 15 cents a gallon between now and Dec. 31.

And then gas prices will soon begin climbing, delivering a cyclical blow to motorists’ wallets.

“Once we get into the new year,’’ he said, “we’ll likely see prices go up’’ starting in mid- to late January.

From February through March, Laskoski said, refineries begin scheduled maintenance and preparations for the switchover to summer-blended fuels, which are more expensive to produce because they contain more additives. It also takes longer to produce the summer blend.

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