ST. LOUIS — From the window of her convenience store at a busy intersection in the southwest Missouri town of Carthage, Georgianna Diener watches the cars drive by, slow down and turn around.
The attraction? Gas selling for $1.94.9 per gallon.
"Everybody feels we're getting gas at half price," said Diener, a cashier at the Flyin' W Convenience Store, on Tuesday. "A couple of elderly gentlemen just came in and said, 'We thought we'd never see it under $2 again in our lifetimes.'"
The average price of a gallon of regular unleaded reached $4.11 nationally and $3.95 in Missouri in mid-July, according to AAA Auto Club of Missouri. But prices have tumbled in recent weeks. Just a month ago, the average national price was $3.66. Now, it's $2.63.
In Missouri, the average price is $2.31, down from $3.39 a month ago and even lower than the year-ago average of $2.68. Many towns are seeing prices much lower. Several stations in the Kansas City area dropped below $2 per gallon on Tuesday.
But the trend actually began in southwest Missouri over the weekend. Diener said the Flyin' W price dipped below $2 per gallon on Saturday. Most stations in Carthage are now below $2. Stations in nearby Joplin are generally around $1.99 per gallon. Several stations at Nixa were at $1.96.
Among Missouri's metro areas, Springfield had the lowest average price, $2.07. Kansas City was at $2.12, St. Joseph at $2.14 and Columbia at $2.37. The St. Louis average was $2.51. St. Louis is unique in that it uses a special reformulated gasoline aimed at reducing air pollution.
Missouri's average price is low, but not the lowest. Oklahoma's average price is $2.22, followed by Kansas at $2.30. Missouri, Iowa and Minnesota all are at $2.31.
Experts note fast-falling prices of crude oil as the main reason for the steep decline in gasoline prices. Oil prices are now around $64 per barrel after peaking at $147.27 on July 11.
But AAA's Mike Right doesn't expect gas prices to stay this low for long.
"There are people working night and day to see that it doesn't continue," he said, noting that OPEC plans to cut production and refineries may follow suit. If that happens, "that will send prices heading north again," Right said.
"I would not anticipate this lasting forever," Right said. "I think that sooner or later, things are going to happen to reverse the trend of recent weeks."
Then again, Right doesn't expect to see prices approaching $4 anytime soon, either.
"There were unique circumstances. I don't think anybody would anticipate us paying $4 again next summer for a gallon of gas. But anything's possible."