While gas prices have fallen by roughly 8 cents per gallon statewide in the last two weeks, they still remain high in Grayson County.
In late March prices suddenly rocketed up statewide, topping $4 a gallon in Louisville. They climbed more slowly in Grayson County, but did jump 21 cents per gallon to top out at about $3.89 — where they’ve seemingly stalled.
That’s not the case in neighboring communities, according to personal observations and pricing information from GasBuddy.com.
In Elizabethtown and Radcliff, for example, regular unleaded was at $3.77 and $3.73 per gallon, respectively, Thursday evening. For Radcliff, that was a drop of 4 cents per gallon in just one week. Bowling Green costs were averaging $3.77 per gallon, while Hardinsburg also was selling regular unleaded at $3.73 per gallon.
There were other pockets of high prices, though, in surrounding communities. Owensboro stations were charging an average $3.89 per gallon, while in Morgantown prices averaged about $3.85. Stations in Louisville were mostly in the $3.85 per gallon range as well.
The one “cheap” spot in the region? Henderson, roughly 90 minutes away, had an average at-the-pump price of $3.64 per gallon Thursday afternoon.
The statewide average is $3.82 per gallon, according to GasBuddy.com, compared to the national average of $3.91.
“Gasoline prices in the hardest hit areas have finally shown signs of relief, with gasoline prices falling now in Chicago as they have for a few weeks in California,” said GasBuddy.com Senior Petroleum Analyst Patrick DeHaan.
Experts are now predicting prices may peak in May — as usual — and then ease during the summer. That’s thanks to falling demand due to the slowing global economy, and increased oil production in Saudi Arabia.
Oil prices had surged 13 percent since January, in part because of fears of a cutoff in supplies from Iran, which is the target of U.S. and European sanctions aimed at stoping its nuclear weapons program.
But traders may have overreacted to the potential impact of those sanctions, Julian Jessop, chief global economist at Capital Economics, told MSNBC.
“We expect any remaining Iran premium in prices to evaporate soon,” he said. “Even if sanctions continue to tighten there is ample evidence that the countries most affected have already been able to find alternative supplies, while Iran is actually having to cut prices in order to sell its oil elsewhere.”
There is also a good chance Iran will make the concessions needed to end the standoff, said Jessop.
In its latest forecast, issued this week, the Energy Information Administration said it expects nationwide retail prices of a gallon of regular gasoline to peak in May at $4.01 and then ease to an average of $3.95 a gallon through the summer.
Gasoline prices could fall even further if crude prices continue to ease. Analysts say the outlook for crude prices depends heavily on how much further the global economy slows this year.
The IEA is predicting global oil demand will reach nearly 90 million barrels per day this year, just 800,000 barrels per day more than 2011, based on its prediction that global gross domestic product will rise by 3.3. percent this year.
Some private economist think that growth forecast may be too optimistic, given the ongoing economic slowdown in Europe and recent signs that China’s rapid growth continues to slow.
U.S. gasoline demand is also easing as the domestic auto industry enjoys a rebound driven by brisk sales of new models offering higher fuel efficiency.
Prices should also starting falling as American refineries wrap up seasonal maintenance programs.
“We’re beginning to see refinery utilization rise, indicating refineries are coming out of maintenance and boosting production. If we continue to see utilization rise at domestic refineries, we may see an earlier peak than we have in prior years, ” GasBuddy’s DeHaan said.