Gasoline prices in Rock Hill are the lowest in the country, and the cost in South Carolina could average about $3 per gallon this fall, some analysts say.
Rock Hill gas prices generally range from $3.01 to about $3.10 per gallon of regular unleaded. For a couple of weeks this month, the price at several Rock Hill gas stations stayed well below $3 per gallon, with some approaching $2.90.
In August, the area’s average price of $3.08 has been the lowest in the country, according to GasBuddy.com.
Increased competition from stations such as QuikTrip – which has added seven locations in York County in the past two years, with plans to build an eighth – is helping keep local gas prices low, analysts say.
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The statewide average is $3.15, with gas in Myrtle Beach and Charleston two or three cents higher.
High output from Gulf Coast refineries and rising crude oil production should keep prices low through the fall, analysts say. The annual drop in gasoline consumption – between 10 million and 12 million gallons a day after Labor Day – also should keep prices lower.
“There’s no indication that gas prices won’t decline,” said Tiffany Wright, spokeswoman for AAA Carolinas. Gas prices have dropped 24 cents per gallon since July 4, and South Carolina’s average price is the lowest in the country due to the 16-cent state gas tax, which is one of the lowest in the nation.
Falling gas prices are expected to contribute to more Labor Day weekend travel.
AAA Carolinas predicts more than 451,000 South Carolina residents will travel more than 50 miles from home this weekend – a 1.5 percent increase over last year. About 86 percent of those traveling will be driving.
Tom Kloza, an analyst for GasBuddy.com, said some markets where prices are higher might keep the South Carolina average from dropping to $3 per gallon, but, “the average person will have the chance to pay less than $3 per gallon this fall.”
The increase in crude oil production is due to a combination of traditional drilling methods, Kloza said, as well as fracking – the controversial process of forcing high-pressure liquid into underground rock to extract oil or gas. The decline in gas prices is attributed to lower production costs, he said, specifically the cost of natural gas used at refineries. Along the Gulf Coast, natural gas prices are one-third to one-fourth of what they are elsewhere.
While gas prices are expected to drop through the fall, Kloza said, they won’t reach the $2.70 national average people paid in 2010.
The lower prices “are not the new normal,” Kloza said, since gas prices historically rise in the spring.