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GOV’T TELLS US DRIVERS TO GET USED TO CHEAP GAS

BY JONATHAN FAHEY
AP ENERGY WRITER

 

NEW YORK (AP) — Those low gas prices on station signs aren’t going away soon, the government says.

In a dramatic shift from previous forecasts, the Energy Department predicted Wednesday that the average price of gasoline in the U.S. will be below $2.94 a gallon in 2015. That a 44-cent drop from an outlook issued just a month ago.

If the sharply lower estimate holds true, U.S. consumers will save $61 billion on gas compared with this year.

Rising oil production, particularly in the U.S., and weak spots in the global economy have led to a sharp reduction in oil prices over the past four months. Not seeing much of a change ahead, the government cut its forecast for global oil prices next year by $18 a barrel to $83.

As a result, U.S. drivers will pay on average 45 cents less for a gallon of gas next year compared to this year. Based on expected gasoline consumption, that’s a savings of $60.9 billion.

That may not seem like a lot in the context of a $17.5 trillion U.S. economy, but economists say it matters because it immediately gives consumers more money to spend on other things. Consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of the U.S. economy.

“It would be a reversal of the trend over the last few years where consumers can’t stretch a dollar far enough,” says Tim Quinlan, an economist at Wells Fargo.

Quinlan says the price of gasoline is one of the three big drivers of consumer confidence, along with stock prices and the unemployment rate. “Lately all three are moving in the right direction,” he says.

After falling for 48 straight days, the average gasoline price in the U.S. is $2.92, the lowest since December of 2010, according to AAA. That was also the last full year when the average came in below $3 a gallon. [Read More]

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