Fuel prices to drop despite holiday travel

LAWRENCEVILLE - Claudia Balch of Lawrenceville planned to watch the Independence Day fireworks from her vacation spot in Florida, but the looming threat of high gas prices altered her plans. She and her husband are choosing to make the shorter drive to North Carolina instead.

This year, though, the increase has not been as drastic as in years past. In fact, gas prices are expected to fall, a sharp contrast to two months of increases.

With average gas prices in metro Atlanta reaching $4 per gallon during Independence Day weekend 2008, reports of decreasing gas prices going into the weekend should come as a relief.

At $2.518, the cost of the average gallon of gasoline in Atlanta is promising to those with high hopes of continued price decline. The national average has fallen a nickel in the last week.

"In advance of a big holiday weekend (like the Fourth of July), we tend to expect prices to rise," AAA Auto Club South spokesman Gregg Laskoski said, noting a change in trend for the approaching weekend. "We expect prices to continue to decrease incrementally, by tenths of a cent, every day until the weekend."

Travel for the holiday weekend is expected to decline by 2 percent, compared to totals from last year. The auto club, gathering data from a survey of people, reports that approximately 1,067,000 Georgians will travel at least 50 miles from home during the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

Roughly 89 percent of those are expected to travel by automobile.

Carlos Cuello, who resides in Dacula, will not be among the travelers this holiday weekend, but he is relieved about the prospect of declining prices.

"With how tight things are, it's simply outrageous," Cuello said. "(The price decline) will be a lot easier on the household."

AAA expects prices to continue to decline through the weekend.

"We believe the peak prices have been reached, and what we're seeing now is comparable to a plateau," Laskoski said. "With tenths of a cent (in decrease), we can't really call this a decline. Two or three weeks from now, the price (may be) down 10 cents to 15 cents a gallon. This is what we think is reasonable to expect right now."

Tom Kloza, publisher and chief oil analyst at Oil Price Information Service, seems hesitant to declare a victory.

"It's not entirely clear how much relief we'll get or if we'll jog more to the high side," said Kloza regarding average national gas prices. "There's a lot of nonsense about gasoline demand peaking, and it hasn't. It's flattened out. It's about where it was a year ago."