Atlanta gas prices have dropped, but don’t get too used to it

4:08 p.m Monday, Nov. 27, 2017 Business
The price of gasoline has been dropping the past few weeks. That trajectory is likely to reverese direction before long. (Michael Ares / The Palm Beach Post)

Yes, the traffic was horrible. You burned a lot of gas, just sitting and listening to your spouse complain about your family. But at least the gas you were burning wasn’t five bucks a gallon — you got through the Thanksgiving holiday with the third lowest gas prices since 2008.

You probably won’t be so lucky at Christmas.

A wind is coming from afar that soon will be pushing pump prices in a different direction.

Many things affect gas prices. But, more than anything else, they are shaped by the global price of oil. And when oil gets more expensive, it is only a matter of time before you pay the price at the pump.

“Once oil starts to rise, especially to multi-year highs, it’s as clear a sign that gas prices will head higher eventually and that the party may be winding down,” said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy.

The price of West Texas Intermediate – the benchmark, American-pumped crude – closed last week at $56.21 a barrel, according to the Energy Information Administration. That is up 14 percent since early October.

And unless it is reversed, that increase will trickle through to gas prices, DeHaan said. “While 2018 won’t set new record highs at the pump, it’s likely to bring more pain than 2017 has so far.”

Gas and oil prices have been lower for the past three years than in the five years before, according to the EIA. Toward the end of 2014, oil prices fell below $61 a barrel and have not been higher since.

Oil prices peaked in the summer of 2008 at more than $140 a barrel. Gasoline prices followed suit, cresting at $4.11 a gallon for regular in metro Atlanta – a price that collapsed after the plunge in oil prices.

Gasoline now average $2.38 a gallon in metro Atlanta, down from $2.41 a week ago, according to GasBuddy.

The highest price in the metro area Monday was $2.99 a gallon, reported at several stations by AtlantaGasPrices.com. In contrast, two stations – one in Lawrenceville, one in Duluth – had the lowest prices, both reported at $1.99 a gallon.

They may slide down a little more: Changes in oil prices do not flow through the system immediately, DeHaan said. “For this week, prices may drift lower before a risk of a rise.”

Atlanta gas price average

Post Thanksgiving, gallon of regular

2017 — $2.39

2016 — $2.09

2015 — $2.72

2014 — $3.28

2013 — $3.26

Source: AtlantaGasPrices.com

MYAJC.COM: REAL JOURNALISM. REAL LOCAL IMPACT.

AJC Business reporter Michael E. Kanell keeps you updated on the latest news about jobs, housing and consumer issues in metro Atlanta and beyond. You'll find more on myAJC.com, including these stories:

Never miss a minute of what's happening in local business news. Subscribe to myAJC.com. 

In other Business news:

Atlanta is No. 11 for best winter destinations, based on these rankings Travel costs and hassles: 2 Local costs: 20 Weather: 8 Cold-weather: 2 Safety: 8
View full experience