NEW JERSEY — Drivers filling up this fall arounf the tri-state area could see savings of 25 cents per gallon compared to this summer, accoding to AAA forecasts.

Cheaper crude oil, the expected decline in gasoline demand after Labor Day, and the switch to cheaper winter-blend gasoline will combine to push gasoline prices lower, AAA predicts.

“Various factors indicate the cheapest gas prices of the year are on the horizon,” said Robert Sinclair, Jr, of AAA Northeast. “But dark clouds for New Jersey drivers may be ahead as the state might, once again, increase the gasoline tax,” Sinclair said.

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AAA forecasts crude oil prices to range between $50 and $60 per barrel this fall, a considerable drop from last fall when prices ranged from $60 to $75. Increased domestic supplies of crude will pressure prices lower. Crude in U.S. inventories tops more than 438 million barrels, 31 million barrels more than last year.

Refineries across the nation have begun production of winter blends of gasoline, which many states will start using Sept. 15. Winter gas is cheaper to produce and distribute, leading to lower prices. Some distributors may also have sales on remaining supplies of summer gas as they “flush” their supply lines to prepare for winter blends.

However, New Jersey drivers may not enjoy savings as great as the rest of the nation. By the end of August, NJ State Treasury officials will announce if the gasoline tax will be increased from the current 41.4 cents per gallon. Gas taxes increased the past two years as part of legislation to make solvent the depleted Transportation Trust Fund, used to pay for state road and bridge projects. Increases are based on gasoline tax revenue.

If enough cash hasn’t been collected to maintain the fund, state law mandates automatic increases. reports that state officials have already crunched the numbers but won’t announce whether there will be a tax hike until the end of August.

AAA Northeast in New Jersey provides automotive, travel, insurance, financial and educational services to its nearly 745,000 members in Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Passaic & Union Counties.