NEW YORK -- Gasoline prices have begun their seasonal slide.
Better late than never, drivers say.
The national average retail price has fallen for 10 straight days and is now $3.74 per gallon. It could mark the beginning of the usual autumn decrease that was delayed this year because of refinery problems and high oil prices.
Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service, predicts drops of 5 cents to 15 cents per week for the next three weeks. Over the next several weeks the national average could be at or below where it was last year.
"There's some nice relief coming,'' he said.
It can't come soon enough for Mary Hess, who commutes 40 miles each way from her home in Sodus Point, N.Y. to Oswego, N.Y., where she teaches English. She hasn't noticed much of a drop -- she's still paying $4.04 per gallon to fill up her Buick Century. Gasoline is among the biggest parts of her budget -- and she doesn't think it should be.
"I'm frustrated more than anything,'' she said.
In West Virginia, the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded was $3.87, AAA East Central reported Wednesday. That's down 3 cents a gallon from the previous week.
But even in the immediate area, gas prices can vary significantly. On Thursday afternoon, many stations in Charleston and nearby towns were selling gas at $3.89 a gallon, while several stations in Putnam County were selling for around $3.62 a gallon.
Jan Vineyard, president of the West Virginia Oil Marketers and Grocers Association, said nothing has happened recently to cause the differences in local gas prices.
"We'll just have to watch it over the next few days and see what it does," Vineyard said.
Crude oil prices have been up and down recently, affecting the cost of gas, Vineyard said.
Last week, problems with pipelines that carry gas into nearby states made local gas prices go up, as well, she said.