Gas prices have been dropping across the country, a trend that is likely to continue.

Decreases are expected for another six to eight weeks, AAA spokesman Gene LaDoucer said. There are several reasons for low gas prices, he said, including low demand.

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"We're in the depth of winter; people are driving less," LaDoucer said. "The demand for gasoline falls off."

Dave Flynn, chair of the UND economics department, called the dropping prices a "double-edged sword" for the U.S.

Since the country produces and consumes large amounts of oil, the dropping prices could potentially mean lost oil production jobs.

But the market seems to be so volatile that this could change soon, according to Flynn.

"We've had mixed manufacturing signals come out of economy as of late," Flynn said.

Since supply is quickly outpacing demand, it makes sense that gasoline prices have dropped, said Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council.

"Certainly, the price of oil and, ultimately, the price of gasoline is based on supply and demand curve, and right now is historically a time when demand has dropped," Ness said.

Another reason for falling gas prices is that oil prices have dropped too. Oil prices have dropped about 25 percent since October, LaDoucer said as he attributed the drop to increased production of oil in the U.S. in recent years, LaDoucer said.

North Dakota's January of 2019 gasoline prices are 30 cents higher than this time last year, in January 2018, but prices are consistent with January 2017.

"As far as for all of 2018, North Dakota is tracking higher for the year than the year before," LaDoucer said.

Last year's average price in North Dakota was $2.70 cents per gallon, the highest annual average since 2014 for the state. That year, the average price for gasoline was $3.35 cents per gallon.

In November, the average price was $2.67 per gallon in North Dakota, which was also the highest since 2014. The price of gasoline in Grand Forks County heading into the weekend was $2.26 per gallon, according to AAA.

The average price of gas per gallon in Cass County was $2.04 per gallon and $2.25 in Burleigh County as of Friday, according to AAA.

Minnesota's state average gasoline price on Friday was $2.09 per gallon. In Polk County, Minn., the price was $2.06.

OPEC

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is looking at production cuts to help increase the price of oil, which may occur in the next few months, according to LaDoucer.

"You're seeing a lot of volatility in oil these days because nobody is quite sure whether OPEC or if the demand side of things will have a stronger effect right now," Flynn said.

Many in the industry are waiting to see what OPEC does, but America has become an independent oil producer and is not as reliant on the organization as it was in the past, Ness said.

"What we've done in the Bakken has put us on this pathway, we have now become essentially energy independent," Ness said.

However, Ness said, North Dakota's economy is reliant on the prices of oil and agriculture commodities.

"For a commodity state, it's not positive to have it swing so low," Ness said. "It's a big pendulum for us, but that's what markets do."

Both Ness and LaDoucer said the market typically corrects itself.

"Generally, January has low prices, but as demand picks up, as they bring on more expensive summer blends of gasoline, prices then rise again," LaDoucer said.

He expects gas prices to begin to rise in late February or early March.

Market uncertainty

Ultimately, much is uncertain about the future ups and downs of the market.

"This is as volatile as anything else in economy right now," Flynn said. "The really big question mark will be paying attention going forward, the economy will have an impact on oil and gas prices. You've got to pay attention."

LaDoucer said increased production of crude oil has helped bring down price of gasoline in recent years, so seeing lower prices between 2014 and 2018 is not surprising.

"This year, they have fallen a little bit more than they have in the past couple of years," LaDoucer said. "But this is nothing unusual. This is typical of the annual pattern."

These price changes have helped consumers, experts said. Financial services company Ameriprise estimated every 10-cent change in average gasoline prices over the course of a year equates to about $14 billion in consumer savings.

"But what you're enjoying right now is oil prices are lower, and, in turn, gas prices lower," Flynn said. "On the consumer side of it, it's a good thing."