The recent decline in the U.S. national average has been most welcome and I'm sure much appreciated by motorists. However, the national average could turn around in the week ahead as production of refined products drop and supplies grow tighter.

The U.S. national average starts the new work week at $3.67/gallon, having dropped 3c/gal in the last week. Surprisingly, average prices are below where they were one year ago when prices averaged $3.76/gal.

There's ominous news on the horizon, however. Oil prices made advances late last week, and wholesale gasoline prices followed higher. This may give shape to a new upward trend in gasoline prices over the next few days, with gas stations in the Great Lakes states perhaps hiking first- with some hikes perhaps starting today or tomorrow.

The future of gasoline prices looks okay when comparing it to a year ago, but I do expect the gap between last year's higher prices and today's prices to close slightly over the next few weeks.

This is a very sensitive time of year as refineries slow production while they perform maintenance at their plants, then begin to phase in EPA-mandated cleaner burning summer gasoline. Refinery problems related to the maintenance is generally a leading factor in prices this time of year.