Gas Prices Drop Seven Cents

Customer Carlos Mora pumps gas at a Shell gas station in San Mateo, Calif., Tuesday, May 15, 2007. Most Americans are locked in to their driving habits, and can do little to alter them when prices rise, experts say. Indeed, demand for gasoline rose over the last month, even though prices were rising toward record highs. At the same time, refineries have experienced more downtime this spring than in years past, cutting the gasoline supply. The combination of low supplies and high demand is what's sending prices up to almost $4 a gallon in some areas. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)[
AP Photo/Paul Sakuma
The national average price for gasoline dropped seven cents in the last three weeks, according to a market survey. It's the first decline since January.

Trilby Lundberg, industry analyst and publisher of The Lundberg Survey, told CBS News that the "wonderful news is that, although prices gained a whole dollar this year, they're down seven cents because imports of gasoline are coming in to rebalance supply and demand."

The U.S. average for self-serve, regular-grade gasoline was $3.11 per gallon as of Wednesday. That's down from $3.18 in the last national survey May 18th.

Lundberg says the modest relief came thanks to a boost in imports of gasoline from foreign producers lured by record-high prices.

Lundberg, however, says the latest numbers don't portend any dramatic price drops. Despite the recent sag, prices still are up 93 cents since the start of 2007.

"Our refining capacity is still coming back from four months of terrific work projects and accidents, and imported gallons are making up the difference," Lundberg said. "That isn't going to change overnight, so we'll probably see a few more cents at the pump here and there over several weeks, but not 93 more cents worth."

Chicago had the nation's highest gasoline prices, at $3.61 per gallon for regular. Jackson, Miss., with regular gasoline selling for an average of $2.87 a gallon, had the nation's lowest average.

Lundberg said there are three main reasons to explain the great variety of gasoline prices around the country: "First is fuel taxes; second is the reformulation requirements for environmental regulations; and third is the cost of doing business is much higher in some areas than others."