Summer forecast for gas prices: reasonable

So he's feeling pretty good these days, what with pump prices solidly below $3 a gallon at service stations across most of metro Atlanta, and not much above $2 at some.

On Wednesday, AAA listed the average price of a gallon of regular as $2.61 in Georgia, and $2.72 nationally. Last year at this time in the U.S., it was $2.52.

"I remember when I paid $4.15 a gallon," Tighe said, recalling the spike of two summers ago that sent  motorists into a fiscal frenzy.  If that happens again, he said, "I'll buy a bicycle."

Neither Tighe nor anyone else who monitors such things expects much of a price escalation in the next few months, even if summer is when drivers expect to pay more.

"We are in a nice, calm place, a stable area," said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com which operates the gas price tracking Web site, AtlantaGasPrices.com. "I think the worst-case scenario is around $3."

That would be welcome news for motorists who have been wary since the summer of 2008.

"It's kind of nice seeing prices where they are now," DeHaan observed.

In theory, supply and demand drive price changes at the pump. Right now, gasoline supply is plentiful and demand, perhaps because of the economic slowdown, is not extreme. If it grows during the summer, the cost per gallon could rise.

Another potential influence: weather.

"The only issue that may throw (the forecast for low prices) out the window," DeHaan said, "is hurricane season. That's the one threat."

A major blow could harm refineries, cutting supply and driving up prices.

For now, Georgians enjoysome of the lowest pump prices in the nation. The cost of gas in some states in the West and Northeast is about 30 cents higher in some cases.  Georgia benefits from relatively low taxes and from its proximity to gas supplies.

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