Mayeli Vasallo and Jorge Monte pump gas at a U-Gas station in Miami. The U.S.… (Joe Raedle, Getty Images )
Retail gasoline prices continued to fall nationally and in California over the last week, the Energy Department said.
The U.S. average price for a gallon of regular gasoline fell 4 cents to $3.830, according to the Energy Department's weekly survey that was released Monday. The U.S. average hit its peak for the year of $3.941 a gallon on April 2 and has fallen for four straight weeks. A year earlier, U.S. drivers spent 5.1 cents more for a gallon of gas.
In California, the average cost for a gallon of regular gasoline fell 1.7 cents to $4.186. California prices have fallen for seven straight weeks since reaching their high for the year of $4.376 on March 12. The current California average is 7.1 cents a gallon below the year-earlier price.
Gasoline prices have peaked before mid-May just once in the last 20 years and it hasn't happened since 1998, according to Energy Department statistics, but one expert said 2012 has been an unusual year.
"The old price patterns are breaking down," said Joe Hahn, an associate professor at Pepperdine University's Graziadio School of Business and Management. "It's beginning to look like the peak price for gasoline may have been much earlier this year."
Hahn, who specializes in energy price modeling, said that gasoline prices began the year at a high level, partly because oil prices had been averaging more than $100 a barrel for the first time ever.
"That, too, is unusual because oil prices usually don't peak until the summer driving season," Hahn said.
On Monday, U.S. oil prices fell 6 cents to $104.87 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London, crude oil dropped 36 cents to $119.47 a barrel. Both the U.S. and the London oil prices are running at record high averages this year.