Predicted summer prices of less than $2.50 per gallon of regular unleaded gasoline are the lowest in a decade.

Maine’s tourism industry is likely to get a turbo boost this summer from the lowest gasoline prices in a decade.

Two separate analyses both predict an average price nationally of less than $2.50 a gallon for regular unleaded gas during this summer’s driving season, which extends from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The average gas price for that period has not fallen below $2.50 since 2005, they said.

A recent U.S. Energy Information Administration projection pinned the nation’s average summer gasoline price at $2.45 a gallon, and Maryland-based analysis firm GasBuddy predicted an even lower average price of $2.35 a gallon.

Maine’s average price for regular unleaded Thursday was about $2.40 a gallon, the same as the U.S. average, according to GasBuddy. A year ago, Maine’s average was $3.63 a gallon. Maine’s average gasoline prices tend to closely mirror national averages, according to Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst with GasBuddy.

The summer predictions, recently revised lower, are the result of “a perfect culmination of events” that have set crude oil prices plummeting, DeHaan said.

Rather than pulling back on production, as it has done historically when prices fall, Saudi Arabia has chosen to continue flooding the oil market for the past several months, DeHaan said.

Analysts have said the Saudis’ actions are an attempt to stifle the U.S. shale-oil boom, but so far it hasn’t worked. DeHaan said domestic oil production is now at its highest level since the 1980s.

Meanwhile, an economic slowdown in China has interrupted the strong upward trend in global demand, he said.

“Explosive oil demand growth in China is taking a bit of a breather,” DeHaan said, adding that the slump may continue for an extended period if China falls into a recession, as some economists believe it will.

All of the above is bad news for oil producers, but it is certain to benefit other industries, including tourism, the analysts said.

“Low gas prices mean more money in people’s pockets,” said Dan Goodman, traffic safety specialist for AAA Northern New England. “They’re more likely to spend their money on everything Maine has to offer.”

Right now, the average motorist in Maine is paying $15 to $30 less per tank than a year ago, he said.

History shows that when summer gas prices plummet, Maine tourism soars, Goodman said.

“Maine does see an increase in travel when the price of gasoline decreases,” he said.

Portland-area businesses already are reporting increased sales as a result of the strengthening economy, reduced gas prices and an increase in disposable income, said Christopher Hall, CEO of the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce.

“Here in Portland, all our clients are saying that they’re doing very well,” he said.

A significant portion of Maine’s tourism economy is fueled by day-trip visitors traveling in motor vehicles, Hall said, which means gas prices matter. Almost 19 million trips were recorded on the Maine Turnpike over June, July and August of last year.

“I do think people who are watching this – and many, many are – are feeling very optimistic about the upcoming tourist season,” he said.

J. Craig Anderson can be contacted at 207-791-6390 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: jcraiganderson


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.