Gasoline prices are lower because oil prices are lower.

Gasoline prices in Stark County are below $2 for a gallon of regular, but how long prices remain that low is anyone's guess.

Prices fell below $2 in early December and have been less that $2 per gallon for a couple of weeks, even after a 25 cent per gallon increase at most area stations Wednesday afternoon and evening.

Lower oil prices are the reason. The price on a barrel of oil has been dropping worldwide because of increased supply. Concerns about a global economic slowdown and trade disputes also have driven oil prices lower. Prices stood in the $75 per barrel range in early October, but have fallen to less than $50 per barrel.

The cost of crude oil accounts for 57 percent of gasoline production expenses, according to the American Petroleum Institute. Changes in the price of oil generally have a direct impact on prices at area gasoline stations.

(Click here to see latest gas prices in Ohio)

Around Ohio drivers were paying an average of $1.931 per gallon on Thursday, while the national average was $2.249 per gallon, according to the AAA fuel statistics. That compared with $2.127 in Ohio and $2.459 nationwide in early December and $2.463 per gallon in Ohio and $2.486 nationwide a year ago.

Current prices are the lowest since 2016. In late 2015, the price of regular gasoline fell below $2 per gallon and dropped to less than $1.40 per gallon before passing $2 in early March 2016. Prices dropped below $2 per gallon again in August and September.

Whether prices remain low depends on future oil prices.

Reuters reported Thursday that a survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas shows energy industry executives expect oil prices to rise but not to the levels seen in October. Prices will range between $50 and $65 per barrel as the year progresses, survey participants indicated.

Experts with GasBuddy, the smart phone app that tracks prices at gas stations, predict oil prices — as well as gas prices — could start to rise soon as OPEC limits production. The strong U.S economy also could push prices up. Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy, suggests the national average could pass $3 per gallon in major metropolitan areas, while edging close to that price in Northeast Ohio.