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Local gas prices lowest in years

Oregon pump prices are finally trending in the right direction for motorists, consumers, retailers and shippers. 

The Automobile Club of Oregon/Idaho Tuesday reported the average price for a regular gallon of unleaded fuel is $3.21, the lowest price since Feb. 1, 2011. Oregon still exceeds the national average for regular unleaded, which fell 6 cents to $3.03 per gallon, the lowest mark since December 2010.

Prices are down in 40 states and the District of Columbia this week, with Oregon drivers benefiting from the largest weekly drop in the nation of 15 cents, and the largest monthly drop of 48 cents.

"The higher you climb, the farther you fall," said Marie Dodds, spokesperson for AAA in Oregon and Idaho. "Prices in the Pacific Northwest and West Coast in general have been much higher than the national average. So now we're falling much faster, but we're still playing catch-up to a degree."

In the Rogue Valley, Costco, Fred Meyer, Safeway and others have dropped regular unleaded prices to less than $3.

"We're not seeing an increase in gas purchases because of lower price," Dodds said. "This tends to be a time of the year when demand is a little less than other times. Summer is over, kids are back in school, and it's not prime vacation time."

The broader impact is that people will potentially have a few more dollars of disposable income.

"When you look at the ripple effect, a dime we don't have to spend on gas is a dime available to spend elsewhere. That's especially true for people with fixed incomes. They might have more money to spend in other areas now."

Whether that shows up in holiday gift purchases, it's too early to say, but Dodds figures there will be more money spent on Halloween candy and costumes.

There is nothing to suggest prices won't keep declining for a while longer. The last time Oregon's average dropped below $3 was in October 2010, when it hit $2.96.

"Barring unforeseen events — and any number of things can happen in a jiffy — pump prices should stay down for a while."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31, and read his blog at www.mailtribune.com/Economic Edge.