By KEN MILLER
OKLAHOMA CITY — Gas has dropped below $ 2 a gallon at a handful of stations in Oklahoma and Texas this week, a level that a price-watching group said Friday was the lowest in the nation and a bargain that’s proven irresistible to some long lines of drivers coming from miles away to fill up.
A station in Oklahoma City started the trend earlier this week at a new location as a way to thank residents who put up with construction. Two nearby stations followed suit, becoming what Patrick DeHaan with GasBuddy.com said early Friday were the only ones in the United States with sub-$ 2 gas. A San Antonio, Texas, station also later dropped its price.
There were so many cars it looked they were giving something away for free.
“When I first saw it, I thought it was a misprint,” said Marcus Hendricks, a student who lives in south Oklahoma City, at the OnCue Express in southeast Oklahoma City, where the price was $ 1.99 a gallon for gas with a 10 percent blend of ethanol. “There were so many cars it looked they were giving something away for free. They practically are.”
The nationwide average for a gallon of gas was $ 2.71 Friday, nearly $ 1 below this year’s peak of $ 3.70 in June. Gas hasn’t been this cheap since October 2010. The decline has been driven by falling global oil prices as supplies are high. Benchmark U.S. crude oil fell 68 cents to $ 66.11 a barrel in New York on Friday, after hitting $ 107 in June.
Gas prices are expected to keep falling nationwide, perhaps by as much as another 10 cents to 20 cents a gallon by the end of the year, said AAA Oklahoma spokesman Chuck Mai. The statewide average in Oklahoma was $ 2.48, tied for third-lowest in the nation behind Missouri’s $ 2.43 average and Mississippi’s $ 2.47. The highest prices were $ 3.81 in Hawaii, $ 3.47 in Alaska and nearly $ 3.12 a gallon in New York, according to AAA.
“The world is swimming in crude oil right now. And this of course is what is driving our pump prices in this country, that and good old-fashioned street corner competition,” Mai said. “It may not be a gas war, but it certainly is one upsmanship, or maybe in this case, one downsmanship.”
OnCue Express in Oklahoma City first lowered its price to $ 1.99 earlier this week at the station that has been open about a month.
“We probably inconvenienced the neighbors during construction and we wanted to do something for them, and we came up with this idea,” said Jim Griffith, CEO of Stillwater-based OnCue Express. He said OnCue’s price will rise “probably soon,” but that he’s not losing money on the sales.
“I’m not cutting a fat hog, but I am making a small profit at that price,” Griffith said.
At the OnCue Express, employees used orange cones and hand signals to direct drivers who were backed up at about a dozen gas pumps in front of the store. Samantha Hitsman, a stay-at-home mom, said she drove about 20 miles from Del City to get gas.
“I’ve got all kinds of appointment to run, so I thought I’d fill up,” she said.
–Associated Press writer Sean Murphy contributed to this report.