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Gas Prices Pick Up Steam as Season’s Theatrics Come Into View

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Gasoline prices nationally are picking up steam as the season’s theatrics come into view and the average price rises five cents to $2.31 per gallon, according to fuel price-tracker GasBuddy.com.

Repeatedly citing refinery maintenance and the transition to summer gasoline, GasBuddy expects gasoline price increases to accelerate over the next 4-6 weeks as the two issues intersect and lead to some belligerence in markets.

“With refinery maintenance and turnarounds beginning across the country, we’ll likely see a draw down on winter gasoline stocks, leading the national average to rise in the week ahead,” said Patrick DeHaan, GasBuddy senior petroleum analyst.

“Despite oil prices that remain range-bound in the low to mid-$50’s per barrel, refinery status and the likely draw in inventories will win this week’s tug of war at the pump, keeping upward pressure on gasoline prices. In addition, unexpected refinery outages could cause additional volatility or spikes in prices over the next two months due to the limited ability of other refiners to help offset any production losses while performing their planned maintenance.”

Oil prices begin the week fading slightly, but remaining in the low $50’s, territory common for the last three months as pressure mounts on both sides. OPEC’s oil production cuts spurred oil prices to jump, but headwinds in the form of rising U.S. oil production keep prices tempered, for now. Demand — mainly gasoline — has remained consistently weak in 2017, leading to a concern of an economic slowdown or a replay of 2008 when weak gasoline demand pre-empted the Great Recession.

Gasoline prices rose in 38 states over the last week while declining in 12. The top ten largest changes all were gains, led by Michigan (12 cents), Indiana (11 cents), Ohio (9 cents), Illinois (8 cents) and Kentucky (6 cents). Leading decliners was New Jersey (2 cents), Maine (2 cents), Pennsylvania (2 cents), New Hampshire (2 cents) and Hawaii (1 cent). The Great Lakes and West Coast regions all saw notable increases, both tied to transitions to cleaner, more expensive gasoline, which is likely to continue to drive prices in those regions and others in the coming weeks.

The gasoline price climate across the nation this morning finds 93% of the nation’s gasoline selling stations at $2 per gallon or higher, a rise from 13.1% a year ago, while 16.2% of stations are selling at $2.50 per gallon or higher. Some 4.1% of gas stations are selling gasoline at $3 or higher, a large rise from the 0.1% selling at that level one year ago.

State high and low average gas prices:

Lows: South Carolina ($2.04), Alabama ($2.06), Tennessee ($2.06), Mississippi ($2.07), Oklahoma ($2.09)

Highs: Hawaii ($3.09), California ($2.99), Washington ($2.78), Alaska ($2.71), Nevada ($2.61)

City high and low average gas prices:

Lows: Aiken, SC ($1.96), Rock Hill, SC ($1.97), Sumter, SC ($1.98), Cleveland, TN ($1.99), Lubbock, TX ($2.00)

Highs: Kahului, HI ($3.51), San Luis Obispo, CA ($3.15), San Francisco, CA ($3.12), Santa Barbara, CA ($3.09), Los Angeles, CA ($3.06)

 

Senior Petroleum Analyst, National (USA) / Midwest

Patrick has developed into the leading source for reliable and accurate information on gas price hikes. Patrick has been interviewed as a gasoline price expert hundreds of times since 2004. Based in Chicago, Patrick brings to GasBuddy all his assets to help consumers by giving reliable and accurate price forecasts, including the San Jose Mercury News dubbing Patrick "one of the nation's most accurate forecasters" in 2012.