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Tampa gas prices fall 9 cents, to $3.77 a gallon

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Published:   |   Updated: March 21, 2013 at 12:12 PM
TAMPA -

Gas prices in Tampa have fallen 9 cents per gallon since last week, to where they were about a month ago, as more politicians pressure oil companies to justify high prices and the bubble seemed to pop in commodities markets.

A gallon of regular unleaded now averages $3.774 per gallon, down from $3.864 last week, and $3.794 a month ago, according to AAA.

While still high compared to last year, the drop in price is giving some relief to drivers who had been paying more than $4 per gallon at some stations earlier this spring.

Across Florida, regular unleaded now averages $3.823, compared to $3.917 a week ago and $3.831 last month.

Gas prices have eased as commodity markets in general have taken a beating in the past few weeks.

Many oil analysts have been waiting for a bubble to burst in a market where hedge funds and individual speculators have pumped tens of billions of dollars into the market, helping keep oil prices artificially high.

Besides these "paper" investors, who never intended to own the oil they bet on, there has been worry over the fate of refineries along the Mississippi River as flood waters shut down barge traffic and threatened to damage oil production.

More than 2 million barrels per day of refining capacity sits along or near the Mississippi, from Baton Rouge through the delta, said Tom Kloza, publisher of the Oil Price Information Service.

In Florida, much of the gasoline supply comes from those river refineries, making this state especially sensitive to disruptions there.

But despite the risk of damage, Kloza expects prices to ease nationally, with the average fluctuating between $3.25 and $3.75 through June, July and August.

"This is a temperate forecast, and intemperate zealots get all the attention, but trust me," he recently wrote.

Kloza noted that U.S. gas prices seem to fall in the second quarter of each year, just as reliably as Hollywood starts releasing each batch of summer movies.

This year's crop of summer films could always tank, he said, "But I have faith in Michael Bay, Jerry Bruckheimer, and many other Hollywood directors."

rmullins@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7919

Follow Richard Mullins on Twitter, @DailyDeadline

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