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U.S. forecast predicts drop in gas prices through 2015

Forecasting continued growth in domestic crude oil production, the U.S. government on Tuesday said gasoline prices should drop this year and in 2015.

The Energy Information Administration said the nationwide average retail price of regular gasoline will fall to $3.46 a gallon this year, down from $3.51 in 2013 and $3.63 the year before.

In 2015, the price will sink to $3.39 a gallon, a decline of 6.6 percent over four years, according to the EIA, the data arm of the U.S. Department of Energy.

On the immediate front, a gallon of regular will average $3.29 in January, up 1 cent from December, the EIA’s Short-Term Energy Outlook said.

California prices are typically 20 to 40 cents a gallon higher than the national average.

In Santa Rosa, regular gas averaged $3.63 on Tuesday, up 9 cents from a month ago, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report.

Local stations were selling gas from $3.45 to $3.89, according to the website GasBuddy.com.

Crude oil is the primary cost driver for gasoline, and global oil production is expected to outpace oil consumption over the next two years, the EIA forecast said.

Production by nations outside the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, including the U.S., is expected to exceed consumption by 700,000 barrels a day this year.

Production from U.S. oilfields, primarily in North Dakota, Montana, Texas and New Mexico, will total 8.5 million barrels a day this year and 9.3 million in 2015, close to the record production of 9.6 million barrels per day in 1970.

Brent crude oil prices, which averaged $109 a barrel last year, are expected to drop to $105 in 2014 and $102 in 2015, the EIA said.

Each $1 per barrel change in the price of crude oil typically changes the price of gasoline at the pump by 2.4 cents per gallon.

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemocrat.com.

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