NEW YORK — The most Americans in six years will travel by car over the Labor Day holiday weekend, and they’ll be paying the least for gasoline since 2010 as refineries produce ample amounts of the fuel, AAA predicts.
About 29.7 million people plan to drive 50 miles or more from home during the five days ending Sept. 1, up from 29.3 million last year and the most since 2008, Florida-based AAA, the biggest U.S. motoring organization, said in a statement.
“We’re going into the Labor Day with the lowest gasoline prices for most motorists since 2010 for the holiday,” Michael Green, a Washington-based AAA spokesman, said by phone Wednesday. “This really helps make travel more affordable and leave travelers with more money to spend on other things while on their trips.”
Drivers will account for more than 80 percent of the estimated 34.7 million people who will celebrate the holiday with a getaway, AAA said. That’s 1.3 percent more than in 2013 and also the most since 2008.
The average price of regular gasoline at the pump was $3.441 a gallon Aug. 19, the lowest since February, according to AAA data. That’s down from $3.537 a year ago.
Brent oil, the international benchmark that’s the basis for imported crude and fuel prices, has dropped this month as Iraqi security forces and U.S. aircraft stepped up attacks against Islamic State militants. Russian energy exports continue to flow amid heightened tension between that nation and Ukraine.
U.S. refineries processed 16.5 million barrels a day of crude in the four weeks ended Aug. 1, Energy Information Administration figures show. That’s the highest in data going back to May 2005.
“We have violence in the Middle East, are at the height of the driving season and still have falling gasoline prices,” Green said. Refiners have “produced more than enough gasoline to meet demand.”
Production of the fuel reached 9.84 million barrels a day in the week ended June 13, the highest level in government data going back to 1982.
U.S. crude production will reach 8.46 million barrels a day this year and 9.28 million in 2015, the highest annual average since 1972, the EIA said in its monthly Short-Term Energy Outlook on Aug. 12. Most of the output is light, sweet crude, or oil with low density and sulfur content, which yields a high proportion of gasoline.
“The more U.S. crude production rises, the more light crude will be available, boosting the yield of gasoline,” Tom Finlon, Jupiter, Florida-based director of Energy Analytics Group, said by phone Wednesday.
About 2.65 million Americans will travel by air, an increase of 1 percent from last year, AAA said. The projections by AAA are based on research and forecasts from IHS Global Insight.