updated 9/20/2006 7:23:19 PM ET 2006-09-20T23:23:19

The average U.S. retail price of gasoline fell by 12 cents last week to $2.50 a gallon — the lowest it has been since the end of March.

The federal Energy Information Administration said Monday that U.S. motorists paid $2.497 a gallon on average for regular grade last week, a decrease of 12.1 cents from the previous week.

Pump prices are 28.9 cents lower than a year ago, dropping by more than 50 cents a gallon since the start of August amid falling oil prices.

Average retail gasoline prices peaked at $3.07 a gallon last September, reflecting the extreme tightness in the market following Hurricane Katrina, which knocked out refineries in the Gulf region as well as pipelines that deliver fuel to the East Coast and Midwest.

Gasoline prices were most expensive last week on the West Coast, averaging $2.806 per gallon, and cheapest in the Gulf Coast region, averaging $2.386 per gallon.

The main factor underpinning the still relatively high price of gasoline is the cost of crude oil, which has remained well above historical levels because of rising global demand and geopolitical uncertainties.

Light sweet crude for September delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose 47 cents to settle at $63.80 a barrel.

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