Americans Will Have More to Spend If Gas Stays Low

WASHINGTON (McClatchy Washington Bureau/TNS) -

If oil and gasoline prices remain at their current, unusually low levels, Americans will have a lot more to spend on other things.

That’s the conclusion of the AAA Motor Club, which on Dec. 31 projected huge savings for 2015.

In its December gas-price report, AAA concluded that Americans saved about $14 billion on gasoline last year compared to 2013.

The trend will only accelerate if things stay as they are, with the price for a barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude oil in the ballpark of $53 on Friday, and in the international reference Brent crude oil at $56 a barrel.

“It would not be surprising for U.S. consumers to save $50-75 billion on gasoline in 2015 if prices remain low,” said Michael Green, a AAA spokesman.

U.S. average gasoline prices declined $1.44 per gallon, or about 39 percent, AAA said, since reaching their high of $3.70 a gallon last April 28.

Over the entire year, gasoline averaged about $3.34 a gallon nationwide, about 15 cents below the 2013 average. Absent a shock to oil supplies, the annual average is likely to be considerably lower in 2015, perhaps below $3.00 a gallon, AAA said.

Historically, gasoline prices begin rising in late February, by as much as 30 cents to 50 cents a gallon, as refiners begin maintenance in preparation for fuels used in warmer spring and summer weather.

On Friday, the first work day of 2015, the national average price for a gallon of unleaded gasoline stood at 2.231. That’s down from $2.76 a month ago and $3.325 a year ago.