How low will it go? Area gas less than $2 a gallon

Now, the lines could be long for a different reason.

Gas prices in parts of York County dropped below $2 per gallon this week for the first time in about three years. This comes about six weeks after prices soared past $4 a gallon during a prolonged shortage caused by Hurricane Ike.

As motorists rejoice, there's even better news on the horizon: Travel experts believe prices will keep dropping.

The Herald spoke with AAA Carolinas spokesman Tom Crosby Friday about what we can expect in the coming weeks.

Q. How low can the prices go?

"I think right now no one's quite sure when it's going to stop," Crosby said. "As the national price continues to drop and our prices continue to drop ... South Carolina could be as much as 20 to 25 cents below the national average."

The national average has dropped recently at an average of 5 to 6 cents per day, Crosby said. Friday, it was at $2.46. The state average was $2.35 on Friday, though prices were much lower in York County.

"We easily have another good ways to go," Crosby said. "I don't think it's beyond the realm of possibility that we could be seeing an average in South Carolina ... of around the $2 range if this keeps up."

Based on the difference between state and local prices Friday, that could put some prices in York County around $1.60 per gallon.

Q. Why are prices so low?

There are a few reasons, Crosby said.

"You've gotten speculation out of the prices of oil," Crosby said. "People thought there was no ceiling" to how much could be charged.

Another factor is that people have scaled back on their driving to save money on gas. That led to a build-up of inventory, which led to lower prices.

"It's like a perfect storm for driving prices down," Crosby said.

Q. When was the last time local prices were below $2 a gallon?

It's been about three years. AAA couldn't provide a date specific to York County, but the last time the state average was below $2 was Dec. 7, 2005, when the average was $1.98.

Q. Is it possible prices will drop below $1 per gallon?

"No," Crosby said with near certainty. "People haven't parked their cars; they're just not driving as far or driving as often. We're still going to have a strong demand. It's just less than it was before. One dollar is wishful thinking."

Q. When will prices go back up?

"No one can predict what's going to happen," Crosby said. "All we can look at are some of the trends. If Americans were to stick to their conservation habits ... that'll keep the demand down, that'll keep the price down."