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Are gas prices going to fall to $1 a gallon?

If the fast-falling stock market makes us queasy, declining gas prices — and the promise of even cheaper fillups to come in 2016 — should bring some solace to the stomach and wallet.

Gas prices in the Tampa Bay area are starting to dip below $1.70 a gallon at some of the more aggressively priced gas stations. In Pinellas County, a Sam's Club and Sunoco on Park Boulevard near Belcher charged $1.69 Monday, while a Mystik station on James L. Redman Parkway near Plant City hit $1.68 the same afternoon for a gallon of regular, according to GasBuddy.com.

AAA's Fuel Gauge website puts the metrowide average for regular gas at $1.85, down from $1.90 last week and $2.01 a year ago.

What's now got everybody abuzz is that Iran, newly freed from heavy international sanctions, is taking the early steps required to get back into the oil-exporting business. The country can eventually deliver 500,000 barrels of new oil a day to the market, though it could take most of 2016 for Iran to get back into the game.

Whenever it comes, that additional supply is expected to drop crude oil prices that already have hit a recent 12-year low close to $25 a barrel, and further lower gas prices.

Could a gallon of gas get as low as $1? It's possible.

"There is no major reason to believe gas prices will not continue to press down, and in some cases to $1 a gallon," says the 24/7 Wall Street website, at least in cheap gas states like Oklahoma.

"When oil prices slide, I'm happy filling my SUV," University of Central Florida economist Sean Snaith told a Pinellas audience this month.

He's not alone. GM reports such highly profitable (but gas-guzzling) models as Chevrolet Suburbans and Tahoes, Cadillac Escalades and GMC Yukons are rolling off its assembly line in Arlington, Texas. GM built 16.5 percent more of these models through the first 11 months in 2015 than in the same period a year earlier when gas was higher.

Snaith endorsed the economic impact of falling gas prices. But he did so cautiously, citing the sharp ups and downs at the pump.

"Yes, lower gas prices are helping," he said. "But we've been on this ride before."

GasBuddy's forecast says gas prices should rise as the summer driving season approaches, but will fall again by the end of 2016.

Let's enjoy the moment, especially if stock markets continue to swoon.

I pumped 16 gallons of regular into my gas tank on Sunday at a St. Petersburg Citgo station priced at $1.76. That's a $28.16 fill­up for the same vehicle that not so many years ago cost me over $60 for the same tankful. The savings amounts to more than $760 a year if I filled the tank twice a month.

That comes to an average of $14.61 more each week in my wallet.

What if Tampa Bay gas prices sink to, say, $1.25 a gallon? By the same comparison, that would save me close to $980 a year, or just under $19 a week.

In an era of meager wage increases and bearish sentiment on Wall Street, that newfound money is looking pretty good.

Contact Robert Trigaux at rtrigaux@tampabay.com. Follow @venturetampabay.

DIRK SHADD | Times

A gallon of regular gas was down to $1.79 on Monday at this Rally station in St. Petersburg, and lower in some areas.

Tampa Bay gas prices

How low will it go? Prices are still falling for a gallon of regular.

Metro average: $1.85

One month ago: $1.94

One year ago: $2.01

Highest average: $4.01, July 16, 2008

Lowest metro area price Monday*: $1.68

Lowest state average: $1.60, Oklahoma

Highest state average: $2.77, California

National average: $1.89

*GasBuddy.com, Monday afternoon, Mystik station 3002 James L. Redman Parkway near Plant City.

Sources: AAA Fuel Gauge report, GasBuddy.com

Are gas prices going to fall to $1 a gallon? 01/18/16 [Last modified: Monday, January 18, 2016 11:01pm]
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