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Consumer advocate links gas price-drop to elections


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Drivers across the country are feeling some relief as gas prices continue showing a steady decline. It’s a trend that started early last month.

The average price for a gallon of regular gasoline in San Diego County today is $2.73. That's down 70 cents from the high of $3.43 in May. And while drivers here may call this "cheap" gas, prices have already dipped below $2 in some parts of the country. But what's behind this break for consumers at the pump?  Michael Shames, executive director of the Utility Consumers Action Network, or UCAN, explains.

Shames: The fascinating part of this drop is that we began to see signs of a rather significant price drop well before the prices of oil began to drop. So for those people who say, "Oh, well, this price drop in gasoline is directly tied to the drop in the price of oil,” No, that's actually not the case.

And Shames says consumers probably aren't yet feeling the impact of the lower crude oil prices. So why are we paying significantly less when we fill up? He thinks it has to do with politics – and the coming November election.

Shames: That's the theory predicated on the belief that the oil companies do not want to see gasoline prices be a factor in the minds of the voters as voters go into the voting booths. So that's the political theory behind oil prices. Oil companies insist that this is purely demand and supply and that there's no political calculation whatsoever. If that's the case, one would expect to see oil prices continue to drop and gasoline prices back down into the dollar, $1.50 neighborhood by the end of the year.

Shames says prices will likely hit the $2 mark later this fall, but after the elections, all bets are off. 

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