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Officials report lower gas prices, forecast bigger drop by end of summer

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WASHINGTON (AP) - The Energy Information Administration says gas prices are down for the first time in 13 weeks.

The agency that monitors the price and supply of petroleum products says the average price of gasoline fell 2.9 cents to $3.68 a gallon last week, with "an unexpected build" in supply.

EIA analyst Tim Hess says it's just a matter of supply and demand, as refiners produced more than expected. He points to "refineries coming back online after maintenance season." That's when they shut down temporarily, reducing supply.

But now supply is back up, and Hess says with lower global crude oil prices expected over the summer, the EIA forecasts gas prices to drop to a national average of $3.51 a gallon by September. He cautions that prices may bump a few pennies higher with the summer driving season before falling again.

The price can vary greatly by region and Hess says the West Coast, "which typically has the highest prices in the country," is likely to see gasoline at $3.82 a gallon by the end of the summer. He says that along the Gulf Coast, "where a large portion of the gasoline production capacity is centered," prices are forecast to be "more in the $3.30 range."

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