SALT LAKE CITY — Winston Egan pulled his green Mini Cooper into a downtown gas station Tuesday, an involuntary smile on his face following a glance at fuel prices.
Utah now boasts the lowest-priced gasoline in the country.
"For me, personally, it means there is a difference in what I can spend throughout the rest of the day," said Egan, 69. "For families across the state pressing to make ends meet, it means so much more."
AAA Utah reported Tuesday that the current average price for a gallon of regular gasoline is $2.90 — down 50 cents from last month.
"It'll put a few bucks in people's pockets, but it's only a matter of time before it peaks again,” said Salt Lake resident Richie Brewer. “Something will happen. It always does.”
For now, Brewer will take advantage of the low prices while he can, filling the tank frequently and carpooling with friends.
Only five other states report prices below the $3 mark — Oklahoma, at $2.99; Idaho and Minnesota at $2.98; and Colorado and Wyoming at $2.92. The lowest prices in the county were reported in the central Plains and Mountain West states, the report stated.
According to the survey, all Utah cities tracked show decreases of at least 45 cents since last month's report. Salt Lake City and Logan saw the biggest price drop at 56 cents, while Ogden experienced the smallest decrease at 45 cents.
"How much per gallon?" asked downtown resident Richie Brewer, just hearing the numbers. "Props to Utah. That has to be a good sign for our economy."
Nationally, the average price was $3.30 per gallon — 7 cents lower than a year ago.
Hawaii was the only state reporting average prices above the $4 mark at $4.01 per gallon. The highest average price in the contiguous 48 states was in New York at $3.75 a gallon.
Only 12 states and Washington, D.C., have average prices that are more expensive than a year ago. Not coincidentally, those are also the states where gasoline supplies and distribution were most heavily impacted by superstorm Sandy this fall, said AAA Utah spokeswoman Rolayne Fairclough.
While retail prices nationally are currently rising at a slower rate than at the start of 2012, the average price is driven higher by crude oil prices that have continued to slowly increase in recent weeks, Fairclough added.
“In the first 90 days of 2012, geopolitical tensions with Iran pressured the national price at the pump almost 65 cents higher,” she said. “The beginning of 2013 does not have a similar situation that is moving the market. In light of this, AAA continues to expect gas prices in 2013 will average less than the annual record of $3.60 a gallon set last year.”
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