In the Tacoma area according to The News Tribune’s Gas Deal Finder, the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded was $3.985 a gallon Thursday afternoon.
That’s the first time since early March that the average price of fuel has fallen below $4.
After cresting over $4.30 a gallon over the Memorial Day weekend, gas prices have taken a toboggan ride downward. In the last week, retail prices have fallen 20.5 cents in the Tacoma area, according to GasBuddy.com.
In the last month, those prices have fallen 26.5 cents. In just a single day from Wednesday to Thursday, gas prices dropped 2.9 cents in the Tacoma area.
In Olympia Thursday, 10 service stations were selling gas for less than $4 a gallon with the lowest price fuel at US Gas on Martin Way selling for $3.78 a gallon.
In the Tacoma area, the lowest price, $3.71 a gallon, was at a CFN station in Fife.
The abrupt price drop has narrowed the still-considerable difference between national average gas prices and those in the South Sound and the West Coast. The national average was $3.548 Thursday afternoon, GasBuddy.com reported. That nearly 44-cent difference dropped from the 68-cent-per-gallon gap when prices in Tacoma were at their highest.
Energy experts expect the prices will continue to decline locally as gasoline stocks are returned to normal in Washington. The state’s largest refinery, BP’s at Cherry Point near the Canadian border, is back in production after shutting down in mid-February from a fire.
And crude oil prices have fallen from nearly $110 a barrel in March to $83.12 Thursday. Gasoline prices generally follow crude price swings but lag by several weeks because of the time it takes to transport and refine that crude oil.
Gas prices here likely will never equal the national average because of two factors: Washington’s motor fuel tax is one of the highest in the country, and the region doesn’t have easy access to gas refined in other parts of the nation.
The lowest prices in the country are in the South and Midwest. South Carolina has the honor of being the state with the lowest prices. On average gas there is $3.075 a gallon.
Washington is third highest in the nation with an average pump price of $4.045 Thursday afternoon. Only Hawaii and Alaska, isolated markets, had higher prices.