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As summer winds down, so do gas prices in Sonoma County

  • Sharron Peterson smiles as she realizes the low gas prices at the Arco gas station on the corner of Brookwood Avenue and 4th Street in Santa Rosa on Wednesday, August 14, 2013. Four local stations are tied for the lowest price in town at $3.69. (Conner Jay/The Press Democrat)

Gasoline prices dropped 6 cents a gallon in Santa Rosa and nationwide over the past month, and may go even lower as California heads into the seasonal switch to cheaper, winter-blend fuel, AAA Northern California said.

Regular gas at the pump in Santa Rosa averaged $3.88 a gallon in the AAA monthly survey.

The website GasBuddy.com reported four local service stations were selling regular for as low as $3.69 a gallon on Wednesday. At the high end, nine stations were selling gas at $3.91 or more.

Eureka had the priciest gas in the state at $4.14 a gallon, followed by Yreka at $4.08 and San Francisco at $4.04, according to the AAA report.

Central Valley motorists had the cheapest fuel available in Chico ($3.73), Marysville and Modesto ($3.74) and Sacramento and Tracy ($3.75).

The average national price was $3.54 a gallon, down 6 cents, comparable to declines of 6 cents in August 2010 and 9 cents in 2011, the AAA said. Last August gas surged 33 cents nationwide.

If no major hurricanes threaten the Gulf Coast and California refineries keep humming, gas prices “could remain flat or decline even further,” the AAA report said.

In mid-September, refineries switch to winter-blend fuel, which is cheaper and more volatile, hence more prone to contribute to smog.

“The consumer does benefit at the pump, barring unforeseen events,” said Cynthia Harris, a AAA spokeswoman.

Hurricanes and refinery hiccups are among the factors that influence gasoline prices, as well as the market-driven price of crude oil.

Benchmark crude for September delivery rose 2 cents to close Wednesday at $106.85 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Crude oil supplies fell by 2.8 million barrels, about double what analysts expected, according to the latest Energy Department report.

But a 1.2 million barrel decline in gasoline supplies fell short of expectations for a drop of 2 million barrels.

A relatively stronger dollar also worked against oil prices. Oil is traded in dollars and becomes a less attractive investment for holders of other currencies when the value of the greenback rises.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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