Gas prices down going into Memorial Day weekend
(CBS News) NEW YORK - Drivers may find some good news at the gas pump this Memorial Day weekend.
The price of crude oil hit a seven-month low this week.
The main reason is half a world away.
We're used to events in the Middle East rattling oil markets.
But with things relatively calm in that region at the moment, the focus is on Europe, Greece in particular.
Europe's money problems are actually helping us out at the pump.
"Right now for Europe, it's austerity, and that means cutbacks, and that means lower demand," crude oil trader Ray Carbone said.
That shrinking demand helped depress the price of crude this week.
"As oil prices come down, of course gas prices come down," notes AAA Director Cynthia Brough. " ... Right now, we don't see any reason why, economically, gas prices would go up."
Gas prices typically peak in summer, but if the current trend of falling prices continues, this summer could be different.
Americans will pay an average of $3.67 for a gallon of unleaded regular gas as they hit the road this weekend.
Not everyone will get a better deal, though.
Even cheap oil has to be refined, and refineries on the West Coast have been have been hit with production problems, meaning the average price of gas is about 40 cents higher on the West Coast than the East Coast. It's $4.31 in California and $3.92 in New York.
On average, the government expects Americans to pay $3.79 a gallon this summer, up 8 cents from last year.
But those prices are vulnerable to world events. And traders say when it comes to oil, now at roughly $90 a barrel, anything can happen.
"A resolution of the Eurozone debt crisis could lead to a very quick return to triple digit prices," Carbone said.
Any Middle East flareups could also send prices soaring.
Still, every penny in the fall of the price puts an additional $1.2 billion back into the pockets of U.S. consumers over the course of a year, and that has a positive ripple effect on the rest of the economy.
To see the Rebecca Jarvis report, click on the video in the player above.
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