Gas prices are free falling, and that’s putting a smile on the faces of many local motorists ahead of the Fourth of July celebration.
On Friday, the price at the pump posted by most gas stations in Gainesville was below $2 a gallon — a drop of 20 cents per gallon over the past two weeks in some places.
“It’s been a while since I’ve seen it below $2,” said Matt Hancock, as he filled up at the midtown RaceTrac on E.E. Butler Parkway, where the price was $1.96 per gallon. “The last time I filled up it was $2.16 a gallon.”
Marianna Thomas, a first-year student at Georgia State University in Atlanta, was pleasantly surprised to drive into Gainesville to find gas prices south of $2. She drives up once a week to participate in an internship program for physical therapists at Northeast Georgia Medical Center.
“Gas prices are still over $2 in Atlanta,” Thomas said.
Fiesta cab driver Ulises Rauga said he often works seven days a week and spends almost $200 on gasoline each week.
Rauga filled up his Ford four-door sedan that can take ethanol-gasoline blends. The price of the E85 flex fuel he pumped Friday was at $1.76 a gallon.
“Three weeks ago (flex fuel) was about $2 a gallon,” he said.
Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy, said crude prices dropped during most of June on oversupply concerns. He said that is driving down prices at the pump.
Although crude prices rallied Friday for the seventh consecutive day to close at more than $46 a barrel, they have dropped by double digits since the beginning of the year, and are set to record their worst performance through the first six months of the year since the first half of 1998, according to oilprice.com.
“So many Americans hold on to the myth that (gas) prices go up during the holidays,” DeHaan said. “We’re looking at the lowest July 4 prices since 2005.”
More than 44 million Americans are expected to travel through Tuesday, an increase of almost 3 percent over a year ago, according to AAA Georgia. The travel agency is forecasting that 1.3 million Georgians will venture out more than 50 miles during the holiday weekend — 4.2 percent more than last year.
AAA Georgia spokeswoman Vicky Evans said lower gas prices and a stronger economy are among the factors driving up the number of travelers during the extended weekend.
“Overall, Americans love to travel and want to do something fun for this mid-summer tradition,” Evans said.