ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Gasoline prices, on a wild ride over the past year-and-a-half, are back down again, inching toward $2 a gallon in Missouri, the state with the nation's cheapest prices at the pump.
The AAA Auto Club's daily online Fuel Gauge Report on Tuesday showed the average price nationally for a gallon of regular unleaded at $2.49.
Missourians were paying nowhere near that much. The Missouri average was $2.19 per gallon. In the St. Louis area, $2.07 was a common price for regular unleaded. Kansas City was at about $2.17.
Prices were even lower in some smaller communities. One station in Peculiar was charging $2.04 for regular unleaded.
In the southwest Missouri town of Neosho, most stations were selling regular unleaded at $2.06 per gallon. Susan Gajdos, manager of the Murphy USA station there, said customers are used to low gas prices.
"When they go up they complain, but when they go down, they don't say anything," she said. "It's been in the $2 range for quite a while now. I have no idea why."
Experts expect the downward trend to continue.
"We're through the peak gasoline driving season in the summer," said Steven Schork, editor of the Villanova, Pa.-based industry newsletter The Schork Report. "Crude oil prices are now $10 per barrel lower than the peak over the summer.
"We could certainly see further weakness within the next one to two months and in some spots, see prices below $2, especially if we don't see the rebound in crude oil."
Gasoline prices spiked to a record $4.11 for the national average in July 2008, then dropped dramatically. By January, the national average was around $1.70, and the typical price in Missouri was nearly 30 cents below that.
Prices rose roughly $1 per gallon in the summer. But demand through the warm weather months wasn't strong, leading to a steady drop in prices. The average price in Missouri dropped 5 cents over the past week and 18 cents over the past month. A year ago, the typical price in Missouri was $3.39 per gallon -- $1.20 higher than it is now.
Mike Right of AAA Auto Club of Missouri said the Show-Me State is always among the least expensive states for gasoline for three reasons: low gas taxes, a strong system of pipelines making for easy delivery, and a strong competitive situation in most communities.
"I think in the near term at least (the decline) should last," Right said. "We should see a continuing decrease given the level of inventories we have both in terms of crude oil and gasoline."
Then again, considering the recent volatility, Right has learned to expect anything.
"It can all change on a dime, as we've all seen," he said.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)