Thanks to a steep drop in crude-oil prices, gas costs have fallen below $3 a gallon in parts of Michigan, Missouri and Texas, and are expected to decline in many other states as well.

Call it an unexpected bright spot in the global economic crisis. Now that drivers have cut back on trips, shippers are moving fewer goods, and vacationers are staying closer to home, the demand for gasoline, diesel and jet fuel has fallen accordingly. And as we all learned in Economics 101, less demand equates to lower prices.

But it’s still hardly a reason to cheer.

James Hamilton, an economics professor at the University of California, San Diego, says, “Yes it produces some relief, your bill at the gas pump goes down, but it’s going down because there are worries that people won’t have jobs. The news has not been good.”

[Associated Press]