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Tampa Bay area gas prices inch closer to $4, but lower demand slows increase

While the national average price of gasoline inches closer to $4, Tampa Bay motorists likely won't see that for a while, according to AAA.

The average price for regular gas in Tampa on Thursday was $3.90 a gallon. The Florida average was $3.93.

Prices continue to rise in Florida — 5 cents in the past week — but at a slower pace because demand is down, said Jessica Brady, a spokeswoman for AAA Auto Club South.

"Right now, the main factor pushing prices is that fuel demand is down," Brady said.

This was the first time this year that behavior has affected prices, Brady said. Unrest in the Middle East was previously the biggest factor driving gas prices.

Investors are now paying attention to a consistent trend. An excess of 2 million barrels in the U.S. stockpile of 365 million barrels shows that demand is down, Brady said.

Crude oil was trading at about $99 a barrel, down $9 from Wednesday. If prices close in a similar way this week, price increases may continue to slow.

Drivers may be rethinking weekend trips, consolidating drives for errands and taking lunch to work instead of driving to a restaurant, Brady said.

Gas prices are at least a dollar more per gallon than a year ago. But it could be worse: In Alaska and California it's $4.27 a gallon for regular unleaded.

Reach Ileana Morales at (813) 226-3386 or imorales@sptimes.com.

Tampa Bay area gas prices inch closer to $4, but lower demand slows increase 05/05/11 [Last modified: Thursday, May 5, 2011 11:48pm]
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