An early Christmas gift: lower gas prices

The average price in the city for regular unleaded was $4.23 as of Friday, according to AAA Gas Prices

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Eddy Bernotas fills up his Kia Soul on Friday at the Citgo gas station at 3960 W Irving Park Road.

Eddy Bernotas fills up his Kia Soul on Friday at the Citgo gas station at 3960 W. Irving Park Road.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Eddy Bernotas’ summer ride is a 1959 Buick. It’s a gas guzzler and only takes premium.

“It’s a humongous vehicle. It’s an old car with a big engine. I don’t get to drive it as much as I like to because gas prices are so crazy,” said Bernotas, 40, filling up his considerably more fuel efficient Kia Soul on the Northwest Side on Friday.

But Bernotas might be less reluctant to drive the Buick if gas prices stay where they are. In case you haven’t noticed, they have dropped dramatically since June, when the average price of unleaded regular hit a high nationally of $5.02 a gallon, according to AAA Gas Prices. The average was even higher in June in Chicago — $6.07. The national average is now at $3.45 per gallon, and it was $4.23 in Chicago as of Friday. Bernotas paid $3.89 a gallon.

Several factors are at play in impacting current prices, including supply and demand, said Molly Hart, a Midwest spokeswoman for AAA.

“Summer is the high time with people on the road, taking their summer vacations and it’s warm out. People are driving more. Come fall, not as many people are driving,” Hart said.

American oil refineries also play an important role, she said.

“Part of the refinery may shut down for seasonal maintenance, and that usually happens in the spring and the fall. So right now, almost all refineries are producing at full capacity,” Hart said.

Gas prices have been high since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Industry analysts are also keeping an eye on events in China, the world’s largest oil consumer, Hart said.

“If the Chinese economy should falter due to COVID restrictions and the unrest that’s going on, then that slowdown means oil demand in China drops. Lower demand leads to falling oil prices globally,” Hart said.

Bernotas said the lower prices have been a “nice surprise.”

“It’s definitely been a nice change, with everyone trying to spend money for the holidays,” he said.

Maria Fields, 65, who lives in the Old Irving Park neighborhood, said Friday that she wasn’t particularly worried about her own pocketbook but is relieved for others with fewer resources.

“This is just like Europe. We Americans are very spoiled. When [the price] was getting up there, there was a lot of ‘boo-hoo.’ I would tell them if you travel, it’s a lot more in Europe,” Fields said.

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