This summer might be the cheapest in a decade for motorists planning to take to the road.
The Energy Information Administration is projecting drivers will pay an average $2.04 per gallon, the lowest summer price since 2014, or 59 cents less than what consumers forked over at the pump on average last year during the same timeframe.
In the near term, however, average monthly gas prices are expected to increase to $2.08 per gallon in June, then fall to $1.93 a gallon in September, according to the administration’s short-term energy and summer fuels outlook. For the full year, the average price is expected to average $1.94 per gallon.
For the average U.S. household, that translates into an annual savings on gasoline of $350, or about $1,000 less than in 2014 when the price of retail gasoline averaged more than $3 per gallon.
Agency officials and gas analysts attributed the lower prices to a drop in crude oil prices because global oil supplies have continued to exceed consumption, leading to persistently large inventory builds. The EIA expects these inventory builds to persist through 2016, keeping crude-oil prices below $40 a barrel global-oil benchmark.
The summer is typically the most traveled season of the year. In the U.S., slightly more than half of the vehicle-miles driven annually occur in the six months from April through September, according to the agency.
In New Jersey, prices already began to inch up in the past week, according to GasBuddy.com, an online site for real-time local gas prices. Its daily survey of 144 gas outlets in Trenton found average retail prices rose 3 cents in a week, averaging $1.90.
Gregg Laskoski, a senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy, said it is rare in April to see prices where they were in the prior week, but he attributed it to a successful transition by refineries to “summer blend’’ gasoline and large outputs of fuel during March and earlier this month.
“So the healthy inventory in advance of demand has helped flatten prices, but we don’t expect that to last when summer travel kicks into high gear,’’ Laskowski said.
Others also cautioned prices could swing up again, especially if crude prices rise above $40 per barrel.
“If consumption upticks just a little bit, then you won’t see prices drop,’’ said Sal Risalvato, executive director of the New Jersey Gasoline-C-Store-Automotive Association. “This is the time of year when you anticipate a driving season and prices start to climb.’’
Steven Carrellas, director of government affairs for the state chapter of the National Motorists Association, said the EIA projections are in line with other forecasts he has seen.
“People still appreciate it when they drive up to the pump,’’ he said. “Enjoy it while you can.’’