It wasn't too long ago that drivers rejoiced when gasoline prices fell below $3 a gallon. Now they have reason to cheer again, as prices have now dipped below the $2 mark at several stations in northern Jefferson County, and a few spots in western Blount County as well.

Stations along Fieldstown Road posted $1.99 prices Thursday afternoon, as did others along Walker Chapel Road and Decatur Highway in Fultondale.

Other scattered reports of sub-$2 gas include a station in Hayden, one north of Tarrant, and some on Highway 79 between Pinson and Locust Fork, according to the website GasBuddy.com as of 3 p.m. Thursday.

Oil prices have dropped over the past few months, as increasing supplies of crude oil from oil-shale fields in the northern U.S. have flooded the market. In addition, hydraulic fracturing — better known as "fracking" — has increased the available reserves from existing oil fields in Texas, Oklahoma and elsewhere. The discoveries have forced suppliers from the Oil Producing and Exporting Countries, or OPEC, to follow the downward trend in crude prices.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that inventories of oil are at a historic high, exceeding records set since the federal government started keeping them in 1990. The price of Brent North Sea crude, a key benchmark for world oil prices, fell below $50 a barrel briefly on Wednesday. West Texas Intermediate, the main benchmark for oil found in the U.S., was below $49; last year the price was above $100 during much of the summer.

While we are just now breaking the $2 barrier locally, gas has been available in much of Alabama for less than $2 for several weeks. In metro Birmingham, sub-$2 gas has been available in the Brighton area near Bessemer, as well as in Sumiton and Dora. In other parts of Alabama, the Mobile area saw gas for less than $2 early in December; on Thursday, numerous stations there and a handful in Montgomery were close to $1.80.

In Missouri and Oklahoma, two states with historically low gas prices due to lower taxes and closer proximity to gas production, gas prices are below $1.60. Some stations in Oklahoma City are closing in on $1.50, according to GasBuddy.com.

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