Lower gas prices may be on horizon

DOVER — Cheaper gas prices may be coming as 2021 begins.

For now, however, rising oil prices and tightening supply have factored into driving up prices steadily since November, according to Jana L. Tidwell, a spokeswoman for AAA.

The average cost of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in Delaware stood at $2.35 Dec. 18.

“The recent gas price pump jumps are a bit surprising, given December demand numbers are the lowest posted for the month since 1999,” Ms. Tidwell said.

“The increases are likely to be short-lived, especially as holiday road travel is expected to see at least a 25% decline.”

According to AAA, many more people will likely stay home during this holiday season — at least 34 million less travelers nationally than 2019. Travel in Delaware was expected to drop more than 27% compared to the same timespan last year.

“Public health concerns and travel guidance are influencing their decisions not to travel over the year-end holidays, a period that typically sees high demand for vacations,” according to a AAA news release.

AAA’s year-end holiday travel forecast in Delaware indicates that 237,598 will travel 50 miles or more, a decrease of 27% compared to 2019’s year end, with air travel decreasing by nearly 62%.

A lesser amount of travel will amount to dropping gasoline prices as the available supply of oil increases by January, according to AAA.

Ms. Tidwell added, “(COVID-19) vaccine optimism will likely lead to increased consumer confidence that life may return to some semblance of normal — a vaccine (in time) would allow for easing of restrictions, economic recovery, people willing to return to places that have been closed, etc.”

For now, “Prices have not been this expensive since February, before stay-at-home guidance was introduced across the country,” Ms. Tidwell said.

“Prices began to rise last month alongside vaccination news and have only increased with it becoming available,” she added.

Currently, AAA said: “Holiday travelers are continuing to take a wait-and-see approach to their travel decisions. With COVID 19 cases steadily increasing this month, the expected continued rise will likely prompt some Americans to make last minute decisions to not follow through with upcoming travel plans, which was the trend during the lead up to Thanksgiving.”

While numbers are not finalized yet, Thanksgiving travel was expected to show a decline of 15%-20% from 2019. It was a significant drop from AAA’s models projecting a decline of 10% compared to last year.

“While Thanksgiving is traditionally spent gathering with friends and family, the year-end holidays are when Americans often venture out for longer, more elaborate vacations,” Ms. Tidwell said.

“That will not be the case this year. Public health concerns, official guidance not to travel and an overall decline in consumer sentiment have encouraged the vast majority of Americans to stay home for the holidays.”

AAA will release its next weekend gas watch Jan. 8.