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Published: Saturday, 10/11/2008

Gas prices keep falling, now under $3 a gallon


Early in the week, Toledo-area drivers welcomed gas prices that had plunged to the $3.16 to $3.25-a-gallon range for regular unleaded plunged, that is, from the record $4.10 to $4.20 range in mid-May.

But by yesterday, gas prices above $3 a gallon were among the highest in the area.

Among the lowest prices in the area were $2.57 a gallon at the Barney's BP and the Murphy USA stations on South Main Street in Bowling Green.

Several stations in Toledo posted prices of $2.79 a gallon.

At many places in southeast Michigan, gas was still above $3 a gallon. Many stations in Monroe County were posted in the $3.15 to $3.27-a-gallon range.

At least two stations in Lenawee County were at $2.99.

In the Detroit area, many stations posted prices in the high $2.80s, although gas at a Sunoco station in the suburb of Lake Orion, Mich., in Oakland County sold for $2.79 a gallon.

Though prices at the pump nationwide have been falling, experts do not expect Americans to return to their gas-guzzling ways.

'We've been through almost eight years of continuously rising gasoline prices,' AAA spokesman Geoff Sundstrom said. 'Any notion that this is a temporary thing has pretty well been erased.'

The slackening demand for fuel is backed up by industry analysts, who say there has not been such a drastic shift in driving behavior in decades. Demand for gasoline dropped 6 percent over a couple months.

'For most of this decade, we've seen uncertainty manifest itself in the oil markets in terms of supply,' said Tom Kloza, publisher and chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service in Wall, N.J.

David Portalatin, an automotive industry analyst for the NPD Group, said research has shown both short-term and long-term behavior changes that will continue for an extended period regardless of the gas price.

'Consumers don't have a lot of faith that the price will come down and will stay there for very long,' he said.

In a related development, the stunning collapse in oil markets accelerated yesterday, sending the price of crude plunging below $78 a barrel as investors grow more pessimistic about the global economic crisis.

Oil hasn't been this cheap in 13 months a rare silver lining amid a rapidly imploding financial landscape.

Experts believe prices could go even lower.

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