As the price of crude oil in the Middle East begins to fall, rumors of a major drop in fuel costs at the pump are on the rise.
On Wednesday, news reports coming out of Washington, D.C. indicated that some market analysts believe that with the recent drop in crude oil prices to less than $70 per barrel, it's not out of the question that prices at the pump could settle out near $2 a gallon by Thanksgiving.
A market analyst with the Maryland-based Oil Price Information Service was quoted by CNN yesterday as saying he believed that Americans could be paying between $2 and $2.50 a gallon for gasoline by the end of the year.
But others say crude oil would have to drop an additional $20 per barrel before pump prices would see that much of a fall -- something most believe is unlikely to happen.
In the meantime, prices have fallen slightly in the Greencastle area this week to around $2.75 per gallon for unleaded.
Even lower are the BP gas stations at Bainbridge and Groveland. Per-gallon prices in those locations had dropped to around $2.57 as of 7 a.m. Thursday.
To the east of there, Hendricks and Marion counties have been seeing similar prices.
The reason for the drop, experts say, is that after setting a record high of $78.40 per barrel last month, crude oil dropped to $69 this week on the world market.
That, combined with the end of the summer travel season and the recent cease-fire between Hezbollah and Israeli forces, is making for a slightly less painful trip to the pump.
"That usually equates to lower gas prices," travel agency AAA's Public Affairs Manager Greg Seiter told the BannerGraphic Wednesday.
Seiter, however, is not nearly as optimistic as those who predict an all-out price landslide.
He said he believes the recent predictions made by analysts concerning gas prices are overstated and that, in fact, one cannot accurately guess what prices will be in the future.
Seiter pointed out the fact that last spring, some of the same experts were saying we would see prices near $4 per gallon by the end of the summer. That didn't happen.
"We don't predict gas prices because it can't be done," Seiter said.
He did, however, say that he is hopeful prices will continue to remain lower in the next few months because the summer vacation season is winding down and fewer drivers are hitting the roads for long trips.
Still, with continued unrest in the Middle East, Seiter thinks chances of a major windfall for drivers is unlikely to happen.
"It's very unlikely that we would experience a drop of that magnitude," he said.
According to AAA's gas gauge report issued Thursday morning, Indiana's average price for unleaded gasoline is $2.69 per gallon, compared to the national average of $2.81.
A year ago, Hoosiers were paying an average of $2.61 per gallon, the same as the national average.
Comparing us to our neighbors, Ohio drivers are enjoying a $2.57-per gallon average, followed by Kentucky at $2.62 per gallon, Michigan at $2.71 per gallon and Illinois at a whopping $2.95 per gallon.
Across the state, prices for unleaded Thursday morning were: $2.77 in Bloomington, $2.62 in Evansville, $2.68 in Fort Wayne, $2.83 in Gary, $2.62 in Indianapolis, $2.75 in South Bend and $2.73 in Terre Haute.