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BLOOMINGTON - Wholesale gas prices are falling even faster than those paid at the pump, according to AAA-Chicago Motor Club.

That doesn't necessarily mean gas is primed for a steeper fall, however.

Unleaded gas dropped below $3 a gallon throughout the Twin Cities this week, after peaking near $3.46 in May.

"Wholesale prices of gasoline have fallen further and faster than retail prices in the last three weeks," said AAA spokeswoman Nicole Niemi. "The supply is catching up with the demand."

Three weeks ago, on May 22, gas cost $3.46 a gallon in Bloomington-Normal. On Tuesday, it sold for $2.97.

Niemi didn't have figures for wholesale costs, but one industry representative disagreed with her assessment, suggesting prices could increase again soon.

"Wholesale hasn't dropped 30 cents (as average retail gas prices have). Wholesale has dropped about 10 cents," said Bill Fleischli, executive vice president of the Illinois Petroleum Marketers Association in Springfield. "Competition is driving this. If competition is driving it, we'll see a restoration in gas prices fairly soon."

With refiners operating more smoothly, supply has lowered wholesale costs, said David Sykuta, director of the Illinois Petroleum Council in Springfield.

But with hurricane season underway and the Middle East always under watch, predicting future gasoline costs is nearly impossible, he said.

"Hopefully, it stays here the rest of the summer, but there aren't any guarantees," Sykuta said.

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