Labor Day car travel likely to hit 6-year high

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The most Americans in six years will travel by car over the Labor Day holiday weekend, and they'll be paying the least for gasoline since 2010 as refineries produce ample amounts of the fuel, AAA predicts.

About 29.7 million people plan to drive 50 miles or more from home during the five days ending Sept. 1, up from 29.3 million last year and the most since 2008, Florida-based AAA, the biggest U.S. motoring organization, said in a statement.

"We're going into the Labor Day with the lowest gasoline prices for most motorists since 2010 for the holiday," Michael Green, a Washington-based AAA spokesman, said by phone. "This really helps make travel more affordable and leave travelers with more money to spend on other things while on their trips."

Drivers will account for more than 80 percent of the estimated 34.7 million people who will celebrate the holiday with a getaway, AAA said. That's 1.3 percent more than in 2013 and also the most since 2008.

The average price of regular gasoline at the pump was $3.441 a gallon Aug. 19, the lowest since February, according to AAA data. That's down from $3.537 a year ago.

Brent oil, the international benchmark that's the basis for imported crude and fuel prices, has dropped this month as Iraqi security forces and U.S. aircraft stepped up attacks against Islamic State militants. Russian energy exports continue to flow amid heightened tension between that nation and Ukraine.

U.S. refineries processed 16.5 million barrels a day of crude in the four weeks ended Aug. 1, Energy Information Administration figures show. That's the highest in data going back to May 2005.

"We have violence in the Middle East, are at the height of the driving season and still have falling gasoline prices," Green said. Refiners have "produced more than enough gasoline to meet demand."