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Below average can be a good thing

Hey Chicago, we’re below the national average — and that’s a good thing.

Chicagoans were paying $1.81 a gallon for gas Thursday afternoon, about a penny below the national average of $1.82.

If that doesn’t sound like much, think about it this way: Chicago’s gas price has been under the national average only eight days in the past decade, according to The last time the Chicago area’s average price was less than the national average was two days in February 2012. And before that was a five-day stretch in March 2007.

“This is something we’re not used to. … We’re usually on the other side,” GasBuddy senior analyst Patrick DeHaan says.

The AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report showed the metro area’s average price at $1.80 a gallon compared with the national average of $1.82. In the city, drivers were paying $2.04 a gallon.

Gas prices are likely to slip lower in the next few weeks as the inventory of winter-blend gas is unusually high. That gas will have to be sold, DeHaan says. The Chicago area’s average gas price was down about 35 cents from a year ago.

Expect prices to creep higher — and sometimes jump around — through the spring as refineries switch to making summer-blend gasoline. The transition begins in February and stations in the Chicago area have to sell summer blend by June 1.

DeHaan expects gasoline prices will peak at less than $3 a gallon in the suburbs this summer and a little over $3 a gallon in the city.