Published November 09. 2013 4:00AM
New York - Americans are paying the least to fill their cars in almost two years as refiners process the most crude in a decade, offering some relief to nervous consumers.
The national average retail price sank 1.1 cents to $3.211 a gallon, the lowest since Dec. 20, 2011, AAA, the nation's largest motoring club, said on its website Friday. Pump prices are approaching the lowest level since February 2011, just before unrest in the Middle East pushed U.S. crude oil above $100 a barrel and gasoline near $4 a gallon.
"We're probably just a few days away from seeing the cheapest gas prices since February 2011," Michael Green, an AAA spokesman in Washington, said by telephone. "Our official estimate would still be that we're going to drop to $3.10 a gallon by the end of the year. At the rate we're going, it wouldn't be surprising if we even go a little lower."
In Connecticut, which has the second highest gas prices in the 48 contiguous states, the average price of a gallon of regular gas was $3.60 cents. That's 3 cents lower than a week ago and 27 cents less than at the same time last year.
In the Norwich-New London area, the average price for a gallon of regular gas was $3.54 Friday, according to AAA. That's 22 cents less than at the same date last year.
U.S. refiners are processing the most crude and other feedstock for this time of year since 2003, having expanded to take advantage of surging domestic and Canadian supply. U.S. oil production grew in October to the highest level since March 1989 as advances in drilling techniques boosted output from shale formations. The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index declined to minus 37.9 in the week ended Nov. 3, the worst reading since October 2012, from minus 37.6 the previous week.
Retail prices have fallen 38.3 cents since August, with the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season that ends Nov. 30 shaping up to be the first in almost two decades without a major storm disrupting Gulf Coast crude and fuel production.
About 19 percent of gas stations were charging less than $3 a gallon yesterday, with only 2 percent selling regular for more than $3.75, according to AAA's Green. Drivers in 38 states had access to at least one station selling the fuel for below $3.
The average price for regular gas has fallen below $3 in four states: Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.
"There hasn't been a major hurricane disruption, refineries have run smoothly and there's more refining capacity in North America," Green said.
Day staff writer Lee Howard contributed to this report.