Motorists are getting an early December gift in the form of plummeting gasoline prices, which hit $3.56 for a gallon of regular Tuesday in Santa Rosa, down more than $1 from record levels set just two months ago.
Experts attributed the dramatic price drop to lower demand and robust supply, predicting pump prices will continue to fall this month and continue in 2013.
"We're in a good place right now," said Cynthia Harris, AAA Northern California spokeswoman.
Crude oil prices — a key factor in the price consumers pay — are hovering under $90 a barrel, and Harris said she sees no volatility in the West Coast petroleum market.
"Right now we're coasting," she said, with lowered gas consumption, cheaper winter-blend fuel in use and no hiccups at California oil refineries.
Overall, prices have dropped 26 cents a gallon over the past month in Northern California, AAA reported Tuesday.
Santa Rosa's average price has dropped 30 cents over the past month, to $3.56 a gallon on Tuesday. A year ago, local motorists paid $3.61 a gallon. Santa Rosa's all-time record price was $4.65 on Oct. 9, according to AAA figures.
Prices have tumbled 42 cents a gallon over the last month in Ukiah, tied for the largest drop in Northern California. San Rafael dropped 25 cents and Eureka fell a mere 9 cents.
More than 30 Santa Rosa gas stations were pumping regular for less than $3.56 on Tuesday, according to the website GasBuddy.com, which posts prices reported by motorists. The lowest price was $3.39 at the Shell station on Steele Lane at County Center Drive.
Looking ahead, the U.S. Energy Information Administration forecast a national average price of $3.43 per gallon of regular in 2013, compared with $3.63 this year and $3.53 in 2011.