U.S. markets closed

Gas prices are falling across the US, but consumers may not see the benefit. Here's why.

Jazmin Goodwin, USA TODAY

Gas prices across the U.S. continue to drop as the coronavirus pandemic continues to restrict transportation and travel.  

As of Saturday, the national average price for gas is $2.15, which is 44 cents cheaper than the average a year ago, according to AAA. The last time average gas prices were this low was December 2016. 

Gas prices plummeted in recent weeks because of oil price feuds between Saudi Arabia and Russia, and looming recession fears sparked by the coronavirus pandemic. Saudi Arabia slashed crude oil prices and increased production, which has sent U.S. oil down 63 percent since March 9. 

Nineteen states now have gas price averages that are less than $2, AAA says.

Gas pump nozzles in a service station

Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis at Oil Price Information Service predicts that prices at the pump will drop another 40 to 70 cents, likely landing at national numbers between $1.25 to $1.50 around late April and early May. 

"With demand so much lower, that equates to Americans spending about $350 million per day on gasoline versus $1.1 billion per day last year," Kloza said. 

Lower gas prices: Global coronavirus fears mean lower gas prices for drivers in the USA

Crude oil prices: Coronavirus fears drive crude oil prices to plunge

Social distancing, "shelter-in-place" mandates and bans on nonessential travel have left little room for the average consumer to benefit from lower gas prices. 

"In normal times this would be considered a boom for the economy," said Tom Seng, director of the School of Energy Economics, Policy and Commerce at the University of Tulsa. "Consumers don't really benefit from low gasoline prices unless their lives are normal. People would be saving on their everyday use of gasoline if things were normal." 

Gasoline demand typically sees a surge during the spring and summer. However, experts say it's still too soon to project whether gas prices have room to climb during this year's peak driving season. 

Follow Jazmin Goodwin on Twitter: @jazminkgoodwin. 

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Gas prices drop in U.S. amid coronavirus pandemic and 'oil price war'