The average price of a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline in Riverside County was at its lowest amount to start a year since 2018 Friday, $3.178, thanks to a sharp drop at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The average price dropped 80.6 cents in the 62-day period ending May 5 and never returned to its pre-pandemic level, according to figures from the AAA and Oil Price Information Service.

The decrease was the result of weakened demand as many people heeded stay-at-home orders, coupled with the oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia, according to Jeffrey Spring, the Automobile Club of Southern California’s corporate communications manager.

The average price has risen nine of the past 10 days, increasing 3.6 cents, including two-tenths of a cent Friday and six-tenths of a cent on Thursday, to its highest amount since Sept. 9. It is 3.1 cents more than one week ago and 6.2 cents more than one month ago but 32.4 cents less than one year ago.

The rising pump prices are caused by “gains last week in the wholesale market despite a 22% lower demand for gasoline in Western states for the week ending Dec. 19, according to Oil Price Information Service,” said Marie Montgomery, a public relations specialist with the Automobile Club of Southern California.

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