Sunday, May 13, 2012

Gasoline prices are headed in right direction

In the two weeks between my previous fill-up and the last one, the price of gasoline dropped 40 cents. The price went from almost exactly $4 a gallon to below $3.60 a gallon in the time I was burning about 12 gallons. That saved me about $5 on a tank of gas. These prices direct comparisons at the same stations in the same area between Wilson and Rocky Mount.

Fears of $4 a gallon gasoline and the political and economic upheaval that would cause have abated. As the highly touted "summer driving season" approaches, gasoline prices are falling, not rising. Let the slide continue! Realistically, I do not expect prices to fall a lot further. I'll be surprised if gasoline falls below $3 a gallon in the next year. But the trend, as economists say, is positive.

There are many explanations for the gasoline price slide, including a milder winter, an abundance of natural gas, reduced driving and others. I don't know the economics of gasoline pricing, but I do pay attention to gas stations as I drive from one place to another. So do a lot of other people.

President Obama has to like the gasoline price trend. When gasoline prices were rising, he was getting the blame from Republican presidential hopefuls. Now that prices are falling, he's not getting the credit. I don't think he deserved the blame or the credit. Gasoline prices, which are the result of worldwide influences, are not controlled by the U.S. president.

If prices continue to fall, it will be good for consumer confidence and the U.S. economy as a whole. The route out of the recession will be long and arduous. Housing prices and foreclosures continue to be a vexing problem. But lower gasoline prices should help a little.

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