With Americans increasingly staying at home to do their jobs, attend school or shop for what they buy, demand for fuel has plunged and pushed gasoline prices locally to the lowest level since early 2016.
Analysts said Monday they expect gas prices should continue to fall this week and fuel prices nationwide could drop by another 50 cents a gallon in coming weeks.
Chattanooga gas prices fell another 12.7 cents a gallon in the past week, with the average price of regular gas dropping to only $1.66 per gallon, according to GasBuddy’s daily survey of 170 stations. Gas prices in Chattanooga are 43.2 cents per gallon lower than a month ago and stand 71.8 cents per gallon lower than a year ago, GasBuddy.com said.
But analysts expect prices at the pump to continue to fall as oil prices on Monday dropped below $20 a barrel — the lowest price in 17 years. Nationwide, regular gas prices average $1.97 a gallon and could drop by another 50 cents a gallon, according to Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy.
“Today, we enter the 38th straight day the national average gas price has fallen, and the first week of the national average being under $2 a gallon for the first time in over four years as motorists park their cars and shelter in place, leading to an unprecedented drop never before seen in U.S. gasoline demand,” DeHaan said. “With the nation continuing to be under siege from the coronavirus and millions staying parked at home, there’s quite a bit more downside that’s in the pipeline coming in the weeks ahead.”
The cheapest gas in Chattanooga is at the Sam’s Club on Lee Highway where regular gas is selling for $1.35 a gallon. Across Tennessee, gas is priced the lowest at a Phillips 66 station in Memphis and a Quik Stop in Paris where regular gas is priced at only $1.09 per gallon.
Gas prices are projected to fall more as the cost of petroleum used to make gasoline continues to drop with most travel stalled.
“Global oil demand is evaporating on the back of COVID-19-related travel restrictions and social distancing measures,” UBS oil analyst Giovanni Staunovo told Reuters news service. “In the near term, oil prices may need to trade lower into the cash cost curve to trigger production shut-ins to start to prevent tank tops to be reached.”
GasBuddy surveys nearly 150,000 stations nationwide and updates its results 288 times a day.