Atlanta gas prices not yet tracking oil price declines

Metro Atlanta gas prices have stopped their meteoric rise and dipped slightly, but the past week’s drop in the global price of oil hasn’t yet been reflected at the pump.

Gas prices in the region averaged $4.29 a gallon Wednesday afternoon, down two cents a gallon from the day before and four cents below the all-time high hit last week, according to GasBuddy, which uses driver reports to track prices around the country.

The price of crude oil has fallen from more than $130 a barrel last week to about $96 as of early afternoon Wednesday.

For Atlanta drivers watching oil prices drop, the leisurely decline in gas prices might be frustrating, but it’s typical — and generally justified, said Montrae Waiters, spokeswoman for AAA-The Auto Club Group.

“Gas stations buy the gas they sell to you. It was more expensive for them to acquire the gas in their pumps. Dramatically lowering their price too abruptly means they’re operating at a loss,” she said.

The price of oil is the most important factor in the price of gas at the pump. The costs flow from global markets to refineries to wholesalers and ultimately to the pump price — subject along the way to the balance between supply and demand.

With so many fewer drivers on the road early in the pandemic, fuel consumption plummeted, and many oil companies cut back on drilling. The demand picked up in 2021 as vaccinated Americans felt more comfortable leaving home. However, oil production did not ramp up as fast as demand, and gas prices rose.

Oil prices also have climbed since Russia invaded Ukraine in February. They reached a peak last week when the United States and other nations decided to ban Russian oil.

While the war has continued, a global shortage of oil has not materialized, as feared, and supplies have been adequate.

That could change. But if oil prices stay about where they are, gas prices could fall between 35 and 55 cents per gallon in a little more than a month, according to Patrick De Haan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.

President Biden and others still have questioned why retailers are not dropping prices quicker.

The largest retailers, which operate hundreds or thousands of outlets, generally can lower prices faster because of how often they buy gas and the discounts they get for buying in volume. In contrast, many retailers are “mom and pop” operations, De Haan said.

In metro Atlanta on Wednesday there were no stations still charging $5 a gallon or more, and just a handful charging $4.99 a gallon, according to GasBuddy.

The lowest price, according to GasBuddy, was $3.75 a gallon at an Exxon station in Dallas.

Statewide, regular gasoline averaged $4.26 a gallon Wednesday, compared to the national average of about $4.30.

Average, gallon of regular gas in metro Atlanta

Wednesday: $4.29

Tuesday: $4.31

A week ago: $4.33

A month ago: $3.36

A year ago: $2.71

All-time high: $4.33, March 2022

Previous high: $4.11, September 2005

Previous high in current dollars: $5.87

Source: GasBuddy, Bureau of Labor Statistics