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Can we credit Michael Phelps for falling gas prices?

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Gasoline prices nationwide dropped by an average of 15 cents a gallon during the past two weeks, and for that I'm thanking Michael Phelps.Call it the latest edition of Phelps Magic. Or the Olympic Effect. Or The Beijing Games Most Excellent Economic Assistance for Capitalist America.May as well.The reasoning behind the decline, as reported in the latest Lundberg Survey, may as well be like the contents of one of those ever-ambiguous "TPS reports" that the smarmy Bill Lumbergh is always talking about in "Office Space."And no, I don't have a cover sheet.Among the "official" reasons circulating out there for the welcome price decline:¢ Some say it's because Fay steered clear of oil equipment in the Gulf of Mexico.¢ Others - such as Trilby Lundberg, publisher of the [Lundberg Letter][1] - attributed the fall to the drop in demand and the fact that gas refiners and retailers did not pass on higher expenses to their customers, according to a story at [CNNMoney.com][2].¢ And one economist suggests that the fall in gasoline prices actually could put enough money back into our wallets that we'd end up spending more money on other stuff - and possibly give businesses the confidence to raise their prices, thus stoking inflation that could prompt the Fed into increase interest rates later in the year."It's going to put a lot of money back into consumers' pockets, money they can spend in the shops and the malls," said Christopher Rupkey, chief financial economist for the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, in a [story in USA Today][3]."A lot of money," of course, is relative.The average price of gasoline these days is about a dollar higher per gallon than it was a year ago. And it's still well up from the good ol' days not so long ago, when $15 could pretty much fill a your tank.For the past couple weeks we've counted on Michael Phelps, the so-called "Redeem Team" and other Olympic athletes to give us a bit of escape from everyday economic pains we've all been feeling. I figure giving them credit for cutting my gasoline costs is as good an explanation as any out there these days.I just hope it doesn't take another four years - two years, I guess, if you count the Winter Olympics - to get some more relief at the pump.¢ Help your friends, neighbors and others find the cheapest gasoline in town. Go to [LJWorld.com/gas][4] to see what folks are paying where, and to add information about prices you've seen in the area. [1]: http://www.lundbergsurvey.com/ [2]: http://money.cnn.com/2008/08/24/news/economy/gas_24/?postversion=2008082505/ [3]: http://usatoday.com/money/economy/fed/rates/2006-09-18-gas-fed_x.htm/ [4]: http://www.ljworld.com/gas/

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