The sharp drop in the price of oil began to push down prices of gasoline at the retail level as the average national price fell by almost 2 cents a gallon for self-serve regular, according to a national survey.
The Lundberg Survey, which traces gasoline prices every two weeks by polling about 10,000 stations, said the price fell by 1.96 cents, to $1.0606 a gallon, for regular unleaded, the best-selling type.
"That's a big drop," said Trilby Lundberg, the publisher of a newsletter based on the survey. She said that one would have to go back to near the end of the Persian Gulf war in February 1991 for similar drops.
The decline varied by region. On the East Coast the price of self-serve regular dropped an average 1.34 cents, to $1.0497. The sharpest drop came in the Midwest where the price fell by 3.22 cents, to $1.0068 a gallon.
On the Gulf Coast the price fell by 1.68 cents, to $1.0425. And on the West Coast, it fell by 1.84 cents, to $1.1643.
Prices are expected to drop further as they catch up to the big decline in wholesale prices. On average, wholesale prices fell by about 4 cents a gallon, to 46.28 cents over the last week.
In an informal survey of distributors around the country, wholesale and retail prices for gasoline and heating oil fell during the week.
Mauger & Co., a fuel distributor in Frazer, Pa., last week cut the wholesale price of unleaded regular gasoline to 50.69 cents a gallon from 51.84 cents. That gasoline was selling at 99.9 cents a gallon, down from $1.039, at one of Mauger's gas stations in Alton, Pa.
Englefield Oil, which owns 75 gas stations and 3 truck stops in Ohio, dropped its retail price for regular unleaded by up to 5 cents.
William Englefield, chairman of the company, said prices would drop at most 1 to 2 cents a gallon more. "The prices now pretty much reflect the drop in crude oil prices," he said.