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Oil prices at lowest level in 14 months

Oil prices settled below $70 a barrel Thursday, their lowest level in 14 months and down 53 percent from July's record price of $147.

Gasoline is cheaper, too. The national average price for a gallon of unleaded stood at $3.08, AAA said Thursday. And that price doesn't yet reflect the steep fall in oil prices over the past few days.

The average price was $3.32 in North Carolina and $3.36 in the Charlotte area.

Gasoline prices nationally have fallen 33 cents in a single week, the largest such drop ever, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the statistical arm of the Energy Department.

Over the past four weeks, the EIA said, gasoline prices have dropped 68 cents a gallon.

Does that mean that Americans are driving more now?

“If they are, we haven't seen any evidence of that,” said Michael Morris, an industry economist for the EIA.

How low can gasoline's price go?

There isn't a direct correlation between oil and pump prices. For the week of July 20-26, 2007, oil averaged $74 a barrel, and on July 21 that year, the nationwide average pump price was $2.99. That would suggest perhaps a dime or more of price drops ahead if oil prices hold steady.

However, when oil was higher, at $80.12 a barrel the week of Oct. 19-25, 2007, the nationwide average pump price on Oct. 19 was lower, at $2.81.

Gasoline was cheaper even as oil was more expensive. That's because other factors weigh heavily, such as seasonal demand and the vigor of the overall economy.

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