August 21, 2014 10:40 AM, EDT
Labor Day Weekend to See Most US Drivers in Six Years

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. “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% of the estimated 34.7 million people who will celebrate the holiday with a getaway, AAA said. That’s 1.3% more than in 2013 and also the most since 2008.

The average price of regular gasoline at the pump was $3.436 a gallon yesterday, the lowest since February, according to AAA data. That’s down from $3.533 a year ago.

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.

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 LLC, said.

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.