Bringing added cheer to the holidays, the average Tampa Bay area price for gas just fell under $2 a gallon. It's a gift for consumers and businesses, savings that are in effect a raise for wage-flat households and a confidence booster during the seasonal shopping season.
The AAA daily fuel gauge report, which tracks gas prices nationwide by metro area, says Tampa Bay's average price for a gallon of regular now stands at $1.991. That's down from $2.028 a week ago and $2.666 a year ago.
Plenty of area gas stations already charge less than $2 for gas. In Hillsborough County, Citgo stations on Forbes Road in Plant City was reported by the Gas Buddy website Tuesday to charge $1.84 for cash purchases. In St. Petersburg, a RaceTrac station on Gandy Boulevard, a Shell on Roosevelt Boulevard and a Fourth Street N BP were all charging $1.92. A Costco on Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard in Clearwater was charging $1.89.
But this is the first recent drop for the average price of gas to get under $2 in the bay area. Prices here fell under $2 for 15 days in latter January and early February of this year, only to start rising again. It peaked this year at $2.654 in June. With the exception of that two-week span early this year, Tampa Bay has not seen its average gas price fall and stay below $2 for an extended period since 2008.
Statewide, the average price remains above $2 at $2.066 but below the statewide average low set this past January of $2.072. That means the statewide average gas price is now the lowest in Florida since March of 2009.
"The low price of oil is delivering the best gas prices in years," said Mark Jenkins, spokesman for AAA — The Auto Club Group in Tampa. Lower prices translate to motorists now saving an average of $18 for a full tank compared with two years ago when prices were above $3.
"These savings couldn't come at a better time, as Americans allocate money for holiday shopping and travel," Jenkins stated.
Twenty-one states now average less than $2 a gallon, with Michigan the lowest at $1.791, says AAA. A Sam's Club in Lafayette, Ind., is reported to be charging as little as $1.39 a gallon.
Hawaii is the most expensive state, averaging $2.811. The national average is $2.038. That's a 25 percent cut in one year.
So is this a blip? Or could gas prices drop significantly lower? AAA says gas prices during the month of December typically decline. Some forecasts suggest gas in the lowest-priced states could even approach $1 a gallon in time.
While Florida probably won't see such rock bottom prices, it is enjoying lows at the pump that almost feel like a steal since July of 2008 when a gallon of gas topped $4.
Contact Robert Trigaux at email@example.com. Follow @venturetampabay.