The fact that average US gas prices topped out at only $2.69/gal. this year, far below last year's peak of $4.11/gal., was mainly a reflection of the weakness of the global economy. US gasoline demand through July was running at around 1% below the same period a year earlier, on top of 2008's roughly 3% drop. Together with very weak diesel demand, that also contributed to much lower refining margins this year, compared to the last couple years. However, even if refining margins averaged zero for the rest of this year, it would take a crude oil price drop on the order of $15/bbl to send gasoline prices below $2/gal., where they were last Thanksgiving. And we'd probably have to see oil down around $40/bbl to end the year close to the $1.61/gal. reported last December 29.
As I noted early in the year, although this gasoline stimulus was helpful while the federal stimulus effort was gearing up, it was always going to be short-lived. And just like the fiscal stimulus, we'll never know how many jobs it saved or helped create, though it's clear that we'd have been much worse off had this year's gas prices reprised their 2008 levels.