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AAA says price of gas coming down; drops 50 cents since May

Unlike the last time a major holiday weekend came around, gas prices are falling in North Dakota.

After witnessing all-time high prices at the pump leading up to Memorial Day weekend last month, motorists are breathing a sigh of relief as we head into next week's long Fourth of July weekend as prices have dropped by more than 50 cents per gallon in some places off highs seen in May.

Dickinson still has the highest average price in the state for a gallon of unleaded gasoline, according to numbers supplied by the motorist club AAA, but prices have been falling dramatically in recent weeks. In Dickinson on Friday, some service stations were selling ethanol-blended gas for as little as $3.69 per gallon.

"The falling prices are likely welcomed by motorists as 34.4 million people are expected to take to the roads over the Independence Day holiday," said Eugene LaDoucer of AAA North Dakota. "Overall, travel is expected to be down slightly due to a combination of factors, including a shorter holiday period than last year, high gas prices and an economy that continues to struggle."

LaDoucer said refinery issues in the Midwest that had been the main contributing factor to sending gas prices through the roof this spring -- well over $4 per gallon in many parts of the upper Midwest, including North Dakota -- have largely been resolved.

In Dickinson, Williston and Bismarck, gas prices are now close to what they were a year ago, according to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report, which also, for the first time in several weeks, shows that North Dakota is not among the top 10 most expensive U.S. states in regard to fuel prices.

The state average for a gallon of regular unleaded in North Dakota was $3.73 as of Friday, down 51 cents from the all-time high of $4.24 set on May 22. Prices in eastern strongholds like Grand Forks and Fargo remain at least 10 cents to 20 cents lower than on the western side of North Dakota and higher than the national average of $3.51, according to AAA.

"Gas prices remain at a level most Americans consider too high," LaDoucer said. "Half of U.S. adults consider gas prices to be 'too high' when it reaches $3.44 per gallon, according to a new consumer index developed by AAA. Forty-six percent of adults believe it is too high when it reaches $3 per gallon while 61 percent think it's too high when it reaches $3.50 per gallon."

LaDoucer added that the numbers also show 62 percent of Americans are offsetting high fuel prices by altering their driving habits, according to the index. LaDoucer said 40.8 million people are expected to travel this Independence Day, compared to 41.1 million in 2012.

Though Alaska and Hawaii typically have the highest gas prices in the country, the most expensive state to fill up in the continental U.S. this week is California ($4.05) while the cheapest gas is found in South Carolina ($3.23), according to AAA.

Bryan Horwath
A Wisconsin native, Horwath has been covering news in the Oil Patch of North Dakota since 2012. Horwath currently serves as the senior agriculture and political reporter for The Dickinson Press and, despite the team's tendency to always let him down, remains a diehard Minnesota Vikings fan.
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