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Gas prices: Here's what to expect at the pump Memorial Day weekend

Gas prices are holding steady this week as drivers fill up their tanks for Memorial Day weekend.

The cost of a gallon of gasoline averages $3.65 nationwide as of May 22, a 12-cent decline from a month ago – but over a dollar less compared to this time last year, according to the United States Energy Information Administration. Average gas prices peaked at $5.11 per gallon in June last year.

The lower national gas prices heading into the weekend are the byproduct of lower demand for gas and use of fuel, said Tom Kloza, OPIS Global Head of Energy Analysis.

However, some areas of the country are seeing higher prices than others. The most recent declines in the average cost of gas has been fueled by an improving picture on the East Coast, Gulf Coast, and in the Midwest, where prices average $3.48, $3.12, and $3.54 per gallon, respectively.

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Further west – where prices tend to be the highest nationwide and currently sit at $4.61 per gallon – the cost of gas has declined by a smaller amount since this time last month.

Patrick De Haan, the head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, said that he expects Americans to spend $1.6 billion less on gas this holiday weekend compared to last.

“We’ve seen more states see prices climb than fall, which has been driven by oil’s volatility as debt ceiling discussions are ongoing,” De Haan said. “I think we’ll see prices rise slightly as we get closer to Memorial Day, especially if there are positive developments in the debt ceiling discussions in D.C., while pessimism could drive prices slightly lower.”

AAA spokesperson Andrew Gross said that the debt ceiling negotiations could “absolutely” factor into gas prices, but it was “probably too soon” for this to be felt by Americans.

“Memorial Day is traditionally a really good indicator for what the rest of summer is going to look like,” Gross said. “So if you have a robust travel period – like [AAA is] projecting – then that will probably mean that it's going to be a really a robust summer for travel as well.”

Beyond the uncertainty in Washington, demand for travel is expected to remain high through Memorial Day and the summer. Bob Pishue, a transportation analyst at INRIX, said that the number of predicted travelers is approaching pre-pandemic levels.

Pishue noted that gas prices are still historically above average, though Kloza said that, compared to last summer, he does not expect the same constant decline in the cost of a gallon. But – barring hurricane weather in July or August – he said Americans are unlikely to see “apocalyptically high prices.”

Jared Mitovich is a writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @jmitovich

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