Road-trip relief


GREENFIELD — When gasoline prices were at their highest, Gary Clift found himself shelling out at least $100 to fill his Ford F-150. It was tough on his budget, he said, especially during summer, when he and his family hitched up their trailer for vacations; the extra weight meant extra gas.

“We definitely cut back on our camping trips,” said Clift, a Spring Lake resident.

This year should be different, with experts projecting summer fuel prices will be the lowest since 2005.

As summer approaches, pump prices will likely rise from the $2.50 average that drivers have become accustomed to so far this year, as refiners make their annual switch to a more expensive summer-blend petroleum. Even with this annual increase, this summer’s fuel prices are expected to be the lowest they have been in a decade.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that nationally summer gasoline prices are expected to hover between $2.35 and $2.45 per gallon.

That would mean an average of a dollar decrease from summer 2014 and a $1.50 decrease from summer 2008, when the national average was at its height. In July 2008, the national average was recorded at $4.10, according to GasBuddy Organization, which tracks pricing trends. In Indiana, the highest recorded average came in May 2011 at $4.27.

If predictions of lower prices hold true, some motorists — Clift included — might feel more confident planning some adventures on the road this summer.

“This year, we’ll head out again for sure,” he said. “It has been tough, especially driving the truck.”

The summer driving season runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day. During those months, refiners are required by federal regulations to sell summer-grade gasoline, which produces less chemical emissions, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Warm weather tends to increase the emissions that cause harmful ground-level ozone, officials said.

Summer-grade gasoline is better for the environment but consistently causes pump prices to rise, according to Patrick DeHaan, a petroleum analyst with GasBuddy.

But some relief came in late 2014 and early 2015, when crude oil prices dropped significantly, experts said. Price wars among oil-producing companies and an oil supply greater than the demand has helped save Americans millions of dollars at the pump, and that trend is expected to continue this summer, DeHaan said.

Vicki Davenport of Greenfield isn’t sure what the summer will hold for her this year but knows this year’s low fuel prices have helped lessen the burden on her wallet.

She is a mail carrier and until recently used her own SUV to make her deliveries.

That meant topping filling her fuel tank almost every day, spending $10 to $15 each time, she said.

Greenfield retiree George Waters can remember when fuel cost 80 to 90 cents a gallon. He does not drive his car often anymore, so the decreased prices won’t make a big difference to his daily life, he said. He does see one downside to them, however.

“I have some stock in BP,” he said. “I’m not sure the low prices are good for the company.”

Lower prices would bring relief to local businesses and organizations that depend on transportation, too.

Jennifer Gahimer, program coordinator for Meals on Wheels of Hancock County, said the organization that delivers meals to shut-ins is not in a position to reimburse its volunteer drivers; everything from their time to their mileage is donated.

Even when fuel prices were at their highest, the group did not lose any drivers, she said, but news of lower prices had her feeling grateful that the volunteers would get a break.

“I’m sure this will be a blessing for them,” she said.