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Could gas prices near the $1 mark during the pandemic?

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File photo (Ferre Dollar/CNN)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The last time we saw the national average for a gallon of gas fall below $1, it was 1999.

According to the Oil Price Information Service on Tuesday, gas for less than a buck in the U.S. is still very rare, with just over 400 gas stations selling gas under the dollar mark.

But what about gas for about a dollar? According to the OPIS, there are about 1,300 stations selling gas at $1.05 a gallon or less.

On Wednesday, GasBuddy said the national average for a gallon of gas was about $1.81. Compare that to roughly 30 days ago, when the average was about $2.19.

The data shows a similar drop in Jacksonville. On Wednesday, the average was about $1.67 for a gallon of regular unleaded. 30 days ago, it was about $2.00.

On Wednesday afternoon, the lowest price for gas in Jacksonville was about $1.35 for a gallon.

GASBUDDY: Check current prices in Northeast Florida

The reason for the decline, of course, is the COVID-19 pandemic, and with less people on the road, oil consumption has plunged, and therefore, so have oil prices.

Oil futures were trading for less than $20 a barrel Wednesday morning. And while gas prices haven’t fallen as much as oil yet, they’re likely to continue to fall, said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for OPIS.

"Gasoline prices in the United States are going to move lower the rest of this month and into May," he said. "I'd say there's a 50-50 chance we hit $1.25 as a national average."

If that happens, it’ll be the first time since March of 2002, in the months after the 9/11 attack, that the national average price has been that cheap.

The last time the national average fell below $1 was in 1999, according to data from OPIS, which tracks gas prices for AAA, and the low for this century was $1.09 reached in December 2001. But Kloza doesn’t think the coronavirus crisis will push prices that low.

But even if the national average only falls to $1.25, as Kloza predicts could happen, that will likely mean more than 25% of stations overall will be charging less than a dollar a gallon.


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