Gas Fell to 46 Cents in Michigan, But What About the Rest of the Country?

Credit: Courtesy Bethany Bartlett

How low can gas prices go? In Houghton Lake, Michigan, the answer was way below one dollar.

CNBC spoke to three gas stations in the town, which confirmed their prices fell below one dollar a gallon over the last three days. One station, the Sunrise Marathon, fell as low as $0.46, and the Beacon & Bridge station across the street fell to $0.47, according to employees of each station.

Police were stationed around the area to help direct traffic due to lines for gas, the employees told CNBC. One woman took a video showing dozens of cars lined up at the stations.

GasBuddy.com, a website which shares gas pricing information around the country, told NBC 25, the local Michigan affiliate, "It appears these stations are currently the first stations in the country to see prices under $1 per gallon in years. As the situation unfolds, it's possible these stations re-raise prices back over $1."

Those low prices come as drivers around the country are spending less at the pump than they have in years, as the price of crude oil has dropped below $30 a barrel. But analysts for GasBuddy say the situation in Michigan is an anomaly.

Jeff Pelton, a senior petroleum analyst covering the Northeast for GasBuddy, said those low prices were the result of a “gas war” between a few competing gas stations in the area.

Fellow GasBuddy analyst Patrick DeHaan said separately that the Great Lakes states seem to be more competitive markets, which may have also influenced the price.

With barrels below $30, the price of crude oil has fallen to the lowest level since 2003, according to the Associated Press. In the summer of 2014, barrels went for over $100. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, prices have not rebounded because there is still more oil supply than demand. They expect barrel prices to remain low through 2017.

EIA reported on Jan. 14 that the national average gasoline price had fallen below $2.00 for the first time since 2009.

“We may still break some records yet,” said DeHaan, on whether prices could fall further.

Pelton suspected a national drop of 10 to 12 cents at the pump through mid-February, before prices begin to rise as they usually do in the spring and summer.

Gas prices could fall to the 99-cent mark nationwide only if crude oil drops below $20 a barrel, according to DeHaan.

He noted that every analyst will have their own theories for the drop in prices.

DeHaan suspects the economic slow-down in China to be a major cause by reducing their oil consumption and keeping more in the market. Pelton asserted that it was a combination of the U.S. supply of oil from North Dakota alongside the lifted sanction on oil-exports from Iran.

According to NBC News, the oil sanctions in Iran had cut the country’s exports by 2 million barrels per day. With the sanctions that had been in place since 2012 now lifted, Iran said it was ready to increase exports by 500,000 barrels per day.

The Government Accountability Office found in a study from July that U.S. exports of oil could drive national gas prices down up to 13 cents.

This year, the U.S. began exporting oil to Europe for the first time in 40 years after a ban on oil exports was lifted last December, according to CNBC. The House of Representatives also mandated through the Budget Act that 5 million oil barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve be sold yearly until 2021.

According to a release from Speaker Paul D. Ryan, lifting the ban is expected to create one million jobs and add $170 million to the GDP.

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