As Memorial Day approaches, gas prices are down from a year ago

Mickey Merkel pumps gas in Duluth recently. Prices at the pump were on the rise as the Memorial Day holiday approached. (Arvin Temkar /



Mickey Merkel pumps gas in Duluth recently. Prices at the pump were on the rise as the Memorial Day holiday approached. (Arvin Temkar /

As metro Atlanta drivers fill their tanks for Memorial Day driving, they’ll be paying a lot less than a year ago and a lot more than earlier in the pandemic.

The average price of regular gasoline, which typically rises as the holiday approaches, was $3.25 a gallon in the region mid-day Friday, compared to $3.94 a year ago, according to Gas Buddy, which tracks pump prices for gas and diesel around the country.

Diesel now averages just under $4 a gallon, compared to $5.62 last year.

As usual, the fuel price story is one of supply and demand, said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis for Gas Buddy.

Gas prices in Atlanta, which had declined through April, have been slowly climbing since last week as they generally do in the approach to summer as many families hit the highway. As they do, they will likely find more expensive gas, the farther they drive.

Among border states, Alabama is cheapest, averaging $3.06 a gallon. South Carolina averages $3.10, Tennessee, $3.15 and Florida, $3.47 a gallon.

But the national average for gas is $3.51, according to Gas Buddy.

As usual, California is highest in the Lower 48, averaging $4.74 a gallon.

According to a survey by AAA – The Auto Club Group, 88% of Georgians will travel this year with most of them taking a summer vacation. AAA says the most popular destination is a beach, but about one-third of vacationers will go to some other big metropolitan area and nearly as many will go to a theme park.

“Travel demand has come roaring back this summer,” said Debbie Haas, vice president of travel for AAA. “We’re already seeing large crowds at popular domestic and international travel destinations.”

About half of vacationers will go to a resort or to national and state parks, according to the survey.

Atlanta drivers can be forgiven if they feel somewhat whipsawed by prices the past few years.

Early in the pandemic, shutdowns, remote-work and fear of crowds meant dramatically fewer cars on the road and when demand crashed, so did Atlanta gas prices, falling to $1.60 a gallon. But then, with COVID vaccinations available and many workers returning to driving, prices climbed steadily through 2021.

Gas, like diesel and jet fuel, is refined from oil and it is oil prices — which are set on world markets — that are the largest component of what drivers pay at the pump.

When the Russian invasion of Ukraine roiled the markets, Atlanta gas prices soared to an all-time high, briefly averaging $4.54 a gallon last June.

Diesel prices meanwhile rose faster and higher, cresting at about $5.81 a gallon, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

And while relatively few consumers drive vehicles powered by diesel, the price of that fuel has been a burden to retailers, distributors and manufacturers who have sometimes raised their prices accordingly, adding to inflation.

More supply can ease a spike, but it takes time to ramp up. American oil production rose about 10% in the past year and the price of gas slid through late summer and autumn.

Even so, the supply-demand balance is tighter than usual, DeHaan said.

Atlanta gets most of its gasolines from pipelines leading from refineries along the Gulf Coast in Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. Hurricanes that shutter those refineries can send prices rocketing or even leave Atlanta without enough fuel.

Forecasters predict 14 named hurricanes for this season, about average. The season in the Atlantic Ocean runs from June through November, according to federal government preparedness officials.

Atlanta gas prices

Friday: $3.25

Week ago: $3.21

Month ago: $3.35

Year low: $2.70 (Dec. 2022)

Year high: $4.54 (June 2022)

Year ago: $3.94

Record high: $4.54 (June 2022)

Low, past five years: $1.60 (April 2020)

Source: Gas Buddy