WASHINGTON – U.S. drivers should see slightly lower prices at the pumps later this summer when more oil exports from OPEC (search) arrive in U.S. ports and help lower gasoline prices, the federal government said Tuesday.
The national price for regular unleaded gasoline will average $1.89 a gallon from July through September, down from the $1.94 previously estimated by the Energy Information Administration (search).
In its latest monthly forecast, the Energy Department's (search) analytical arm said the pump price for the entire summer driving season, which stretches from April to September, will average $1.91 a gallon.
That's down slightly from the $1.94 the agency estimated last month, but still 35 cents above last year's summer average.
At last week's meeting in Beirut, Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members pledged to produce as much crude as possible to lower record oil and gasoline prices.
Petroleum prices have started falling, with the national cost for U.S. gasoline down for a second straight week to $2.03 a gallon.
EIA said "the declines are expected to continue" if there are no supply disruptions.
"Potential price spikes are still quite possible given the uncertainties surrounding Middle East instability, terrorism, Iraq, and the fact that, while more optimism for improvement is warranted, oil inventories worldwide are still low," the agency said.
"In addition, currently low world oil surplus capacity levels provide an extremely limited cushion in the event of unexpected world oil market disruptions," EIA said.
Lower retail gasoline prices are forecast for the third quarter, even though the agency said it expects stronger gasoline demand than previously thought. The EIA revised upward its estimate for U.S. gasoline consumption by 20,000 barrels per day to 9.32 million bpd during July through September.