Atlanta gas prices at four-year-high, but poised to drop

Gas prices in metro Atlanta have been hovering at their highest level in nearly four years, but motorists can expect some relief at the pump soon.

A gallon of regular in the region averaged $2.90 on Wednesday, 64 cents-a-gallon higher than a year ago, according to Atlanta Gas Prices, a subsidiary of Gas Buddy.

“Atlanta gas prices will be falling most of this week at most stations,” said Patrick DeHaan, Gas Buddy’s head of petroleum analysis. “So wait to fill up.”

Last year, average prices fell during the summer to a year-long low of $2.09 a gallon in early July, but they spiked when Hurricane Harvey roared through the Gulf of Mexico and smashed into Houston. The shutdown of dozens of rigs in the gulf and refineries on land was compounded as shipments through the pipelines were disrupted.

Even then, Atlanta never averaged more than $2.80 a gallon.

This year, it's been a different story. On Wednesday, many stations have been charging more than $3 a gallon for regular, including a Shell in Atlanta that was getting $3.39 a gallon.

"For now, the $3 per gallon average is on the back burner," DeHaan said.

Gas prices typically reach their yearly highs around Memorial Day, a result mostly of more expensive summer blends of gasoline and higher demand for fuel as tens of millions of Americans take to the road on vacation.

But the biggest factor in gas prices is the price of the main ingredient: oil.

And after cresting May 21, the U.S. benchmark price for oil fell 8 percent, thanks to what seemed like an agreement from both Russia and Saudi Arabia to keep their oil spigots on: Higher supplies mean lower prices.

Saudi Arabia is the de facto leader of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. And while OPEC has long lost the dominance it had in the 1970s, it still accounts for enough of the world’s oil to move prices by pumping more or holding back.

This week, there were reports that the Russians and Saudis might not agree after all and oil prices bounced back a little.

Still, they remain below their highs, said Mark Jenkins, spokesman for AAA - The Auto Club Group. "This news couldn't come at a better time, as motorists roll into the summer driving season."

The oil price decline will translate to a discount of at least 10 cents a gallon at the pump, he said. "That will not happen overnight."

One reason for the delay is that many retailers need to recoup expenses, Jenkins said. "Retailers are usually slow to lower prices, especially those who bought shipments of gasoline when prices were at a premium."

Benchmark* oil price

Wednesday: $68.16 a barrel

One year ago: $48.32 a barrel

Two years ago: $42.46 a barrel

Three years ago: $63.36 a barrel

Four years ago: $86.59 a barrel

*Price of West Texas Intermediate


Metro Atlanta average gas prices

Wednesday: $2.90 a gallon

One year ago: $2.26 a gallon

Two years ago: $2.30 a gallon

Three years ago: $2.77 a gallon

Four years ago: $3.59 a gallon

Source: Atlanta Gas Prices

A gallon of regular in metro Atlanta, Wednesday 

High: Shell, Spring St., Atlanta. $3.39

Low: Shell, Lawrenceville. $2.62

Average: $2.90

Source: Atlanta Gas Prices