Gasoline prices hit lowest point since late 2011.

Retail gasoline prices have fallen to the lowest level in a year as refineries restored production and stockpiles rose to an eight-month high.

The Chicago Tribune reported that regular gasoline dropped 9.5 cents, or 2.8% from a week earlier, to $3.254 a gallon Monday, the lowest since Dec. 19, 2011, according to data posted on the Energy Department’s website. Crude prices, by comparison, were up 1.9% in the same week in New York.

“High refinery utilization rates have helped U.S. gasoline stocks,” Abhishek Deshpande, an oil analyst at Natixis in London, said in an emailed response to questions. “Gasoline demand is back to its structurally low levels.”

Prices at the pump rose as high as $3.878 in September, stoking debate over Obama’s policies before the presidential election. Retail costs are down 16% since then, with demand for gasoline lagging pre-recession levels, U.S. refineries coming back online after disruptions, and domestic crude production rising.

The United States is riding a technology known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to produce an increasing share of its domestic fuel needs. Fracking, which uses pressurized water to drive gas and oil from shale rock, has helped America meet 83% of its energy needs in the first eight months of this year, the highest annual level since 1991, Energy Department data show. An intelligence advisory panel said last week that the nation may achieve energy independence in as little as 10 years.

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