Guest Column: Americans will have more to spend if gas stays low

Kevin G. Hall

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, an 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.

Throughout 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 preparations for fuels used in warmer spring and summer weather.

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