Fuel prices expected to drop this summer

Monday, May 16, 2011

A drop in crude oil prices this month may help ease the pain drivers are feeling at the pump.

After months of crude oil prices at more than $100 a barrel, for the past two weeks oil has been trading lower.

Americans drive less when gas prices get high, so concerns about slowing demand are helping to send oil prices tumbling from $114 at the start of May to about $97 on Friday.

A report released last week by the U.S. Energy Information Administration also predicted lower than expected demand for oil. Some analysts predict gas could drop to an average of $3.50 a gallon by next month.

While the price of oil may be going down, the price of gasoline is still about $1 higher now than one year ago in Missouri.

According to AAA, the current average price of regular unleaded gasoline is $3.82 a gallon in Missouri. That's lower than the national average of $3.97, but near the state's record high of $3.94 set in July 2008.

One year ago, the average price was $2.71 in Missouri.

The average price of gasoline nationwide increased every day from March 23 through May 6 for a total of about 30 percent. Prices followed a 35 percent rise in crude oil prices that started in mid-February. It's not uncommon for gas prices to go up this time of year. Gas prices tend to rise every spring as refineries follow federal regulations to produce summer gasoline blends that evaporate less readily but are more expensive to make. This month's oil price drop should bring prices down for other petroleum based products, including chemicals, plastics and roofing materials.

* New ice cream shop opens: Cape Girardeau's newest ice cream shop Kaleidoscoops is now open, offering 32 flavors of hand-scooped ice cream in addition to muffins and bagels. Breakfast and lunch sandwiches are also served on a bagels. Jennifer Green, who owns the local Kaleidoscoops franchise with her husband Bill, said they felt the community needed a hand-dipped ice cream shop. Among the 32 flavors are no-sugar-added varieties, sherbets and sorbets, and child-friendly ice creams with lots bright colors, cookie bits and brownie bites. Kaleidoscoops is at 1733 N. Kingshighway, just past the intersection of Kingshighway and Mount Auburn Road. It is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Friday. Weekend hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

* Business success series coming in June: The Douglas C. Greene Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Southeast Missouri State University is co-sponsoring a business assessment and training project called Operation Main Street: Business Success Series. The program was developed in partnership with Old Town Cape, the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Southeast Missourian. "The multiweek program, which will be customized for Old Town Cape small businesses, will start with needs assessments and include mystery shoppers, face-to-face classes, webinars, business and financial counseling," said Gina Harper, CIE project coordinator and member of the Old Town Cape economic restructuring committee. Funding for the Operation Main Street initiative is provided in part from the US Small Business Administration and the U.S. Department of Labor. For more information about this program or the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship call 651-2929 or visit www.semo.edu/cie.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Southeast Missourian business reporter Melissa Miller may be contacted at 388-3646 or mmiller@semissourian.com.

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