Despite tumbling in the past week, average gas prices in the Charlotte region remain higher than in most of the country, and the per-gallon average for North Carolina is the highest in the continental U.S.
In the Charlotte area, the average price of regular was about $3.54 a gallon Monday, down 36 cents from about $3.90 last Tuesday and 64 cents from an all-time high of about $4.18 on Sept. 15, according to the American Automobile Association.
Yet, area motorists are still paying 10 percent more than the national average, which was less than $3.21 a gallon Monday. Compare that to a year ago, when regular was virtually the same in the Charlotte area as the U.S. as a whole, about $2.76 a gallon.
While the region usually has less expensive gas than the nation, supply remains limited by Hurricane Ike, said Tom Crosby of AAA Carolinas. The September storm significantly disrupted production on the Gulf of Mexico – the starting point for pipelines that provide gas for much of the Carolinas.
While part of the flow has been restored, Crosby said, some oil wells and a big refinery remain offline, and Charlotte-area stations still aren't at 100 percent of normal supply.
“We're still trying to build inventory on the ground,” he said. “It's getting better week by week, and prices are dropping three or four cents a day.”
As for when or if Charlotte-area prices will again drop below the U.S. average, Crosby said that depends in part on the weather. Colder temperatures could lead some oil companies to shift production to more lucrative heating oil, he said, which could curb the area's gas supply.
“We're still in kind of an iffy area,” he said.