PUNTA GORDA — The Punta Gorda Metro area, encompassing all of Charlotte County, listed as the least-expensive gas in Florida Monday, according to the latest AAA Auto Club report.

Charlotte County showed an average of $2.11 per gallon for regular gasoline, followed by Crestview-Fort Walton Beach with $2.12 and Tallahassee at $2.13.

The overall average price in the state was $2.17 a gallon for regular gasoline.

The highest average price was found in West Palm Beach-Boca Raton with $2.27, Port St. Lucie with $2.21 and Sebastian-Vero Beach at $2.20.

State gas prices have been on the decline despite the threat of Tropical Storm Sally moving toward the Louisiana-Mississippi coastlines.

“So far, this storm is not having much of an impact on gasoline prices, but that could change this week, depending on the severity of the storm,” said Mark Jenkins, AAA spokesperson in a press release. “For now, it appears retail prices could continue to decline this week, due to the 10-cent drop in wholesale gasoline prices last week.”

Ten crude oil refineries stand in Sally’s path, with a total processing capacity of 2.64 million barrels per day, which makes up more than 25% of total Gulf Coast crude oil refining capacity.

Exactly how the storm will affect gas prices in the coming weeks could not be determined.

“It’s too hard to tell how the prices will change (in the next couple of weeks),” Jenkins told the Sun. “We’re on a weekly basis here on projecting gas prices right now because (of how) demand has been due to coronavirus. The fuel industry constantly changing. As of today, gas prices look to move lower but if the storm causes disruption in fuel supply you would see gas prices increase.”

Gas prices are coming down after a recent spike due to storms in the tropics, including Hurricane Laura in August which struck the Louisiana and Texas gulf coasts.

“That was a larger storm that impacted prices,” Jenkins said. “There were concerns about some supply issues with that storm, which didn’t come to fruition, but concern alone was enough to cause wholesale prices to rise which makes it hard for retail (sellers) to get the fuel.”

Jenkins went on to say that gas prices have been on the decline even before Sally was recognized as a tropical storm.

“That’s due to Labor Day being in our rearview mirror,” Jenkins said. “The traditional period of summer travel is now over. The expectation is that you wouldn’t see as strong as a demand for fuel. We’ve seen them decline about 10 cents in past week and that typically would lead to retail drop as well.”

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