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Gasoline prices drop to lowest in 4 years

NEW YORK – The average price of regular gasoline at U.S. pumps slid to the lowest level since Nov. 5, 2010, dropping by 10.05 cents in the two weeks that ended Friday to $2.8416 a gallon, according to Lundberg Survey.

Prices are 41.01 cents lower than a year ago, according to the survey, which is based on information obtained from about 2,500 filling stations by the Camarillo, Calif.-based company.

Retail gasoline prices have fallen as oil has slumped into a bear market, with U.S. drillers producing the most crude in more than three decades.

In the Buffalo Niagara region, a gallon of regular cost $3.30 on Monday. Although it is down by 20 cents from a month ago, it remains among the highest prices in the nation.

No one has a clear reason why Buffalo gas prices are so high, but a senior petroleum analyst with Gasbuddy.com, Patrick DeHaan, may have come closest recently when he noted that retailers may not be as competitive here as they are elsewhere.

“In Buffalo, the status quo may be that (retailers) may be less competitive” with each other, he said in a recent interview.

If the region lacks a retailer attempting to sharply undercut the competitors, then prices can remain artificially high.

But nationally, lower oil prices are allowing stations to drop prices.

“Again, it is lower oil prices that are the main impetus,” Trilby Lundberg, president of Lundberg Survey, said in a telephone interview. “The oil supply continues to be fabulous.”

The highest price for gasoline in the lower 48 states among the markets surveyed was in San Francisco, at $3.14 a gallon, Lundberg said. That’s well below Buffalo’s price. The lowest price was in Albuquerque, N.M., where customers paid an average $2.47 a gallon. Regular gasoline averaged $3.12 a gallon on Long Island and $3.07 in Los Angeles.

West Texas Intermediate crude, the U.S. benchmark priced in Cushing, Okla., declined by $2.14, or 2.7 percent, to $76.51 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange in the two weeks that ended Friday. It settled at $74.21 on Nov. 13, the lowest level since 2010.

Crude oil prices have fallen by 29 percent since peaking this year on June 20. U.S. oil output fell to 9 million barrels a day in the week ending Nov. 14 after reaching 9.06 million the previous week, the highest level in weekly Energy Information Administration data dating back to 1983. U.S. production has increased by 62 percent in the last five years as companies have used horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing to tap into hydrocarbon-rich layers of underground shale.

Members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will meet Thursday in Vienna. Twenty analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News were divided evenly on whether the group will cut production to boost prices or take no action. “There is further noise about certain members desiring to see an output cut, but there still has not been an indication that could be likely,” Lundberg said.

Refineries processed 15.9 million barrels of oil a day in the week ending Nov. 14, a seasonal record in Energy Information Administration records dating back to 1989. Gasoline stockpiles grew by 1.03 million barrels, or 0.5 percent, in the seven days ending Nov. 14, to 204.6 million.

Gasoline futures on the Nymex fell by 7.87 cents, or 3.7 percent, to $2.0565 a gallon in the two weeks that ended Friday.