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As New Year’s Eve Ball Drops, Gas Prices Continue Rise


As millions of Americans welcomed in 2017, some states were busy raising gas taxes—but nearly all 50 states saw gas prices moving higher. The national average for a gallon of gasoline rose 6.4 cents in the last week to $2.35 per gallon, the highest since June 2016, according to GasBuddy data.

The national average now stands 35.4 cents per gallon above the year-ago level of $1.99 per gallon, and even more impressively, up 17.4 cents in the last month. It’s a rare trend to see for the end of the year, which typically sees falling gasoline prices due to weak demand, but this season has been marred by OPEC’s decision to cut oil production in an effort to boost oil prices. So far the tactic has worked, with crude oil prices climbing to nearly $55 per barrel, a $12 jump versus prices before the decision.

“In 2016, motorists spent an average $2.13 per gallon on gasoline, the cheapest yearly average since 2004, and 28 cents lower than 2015; but if motorists made a resolution to pay less in 2017, they either broke it already or aren’t planning on driving for a while. While nearly 100,000 gas stations in the country were selling for $1.99 per gallon a year ago, fewer than 3,000 are today. Though we may see rising gas prices take a brief break in early February, we’re unlikely to come anywhere close to last year’s low levels,” said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.

While the ball was dropping to welcome the new year in, thousands of gas stations were busy ahead of gas tax changes that took effect as of midnight: Pennsylvania saw a 7.9 cent per gallon increase in state gas tax while Michigan saw a 7.3 cent hike, and several states saw smaller hikes: Nebraska (1.5 cents), Georgia and North Carolina (0.3 cents), Indiana (0.2 cents) and Florida (0.1 cent). New York and West Virginia saw their state gas tax levies drop by 0.8 cents and 1.0 cents, respectively.

The shift in taxes represents a growing trend among states: to boost taxes a large amount up front, before tying future increases in gas taxes to prevailing inflation figures, or rises in a benchmark of average gas price data.

Any way you slice it, it was a penny-pinching way to end 2016, with gas prices rising 33 cents in Michigan in the last month. Wisconsin followed with a monthly rise of 28 cents, Illinois 27 cents, Minnesota 25 cents and Iowa, 24 cents. Just one state saw gas prices decline in the last month: Utah, falling 5.4 cents, but even Utah has seen prices rise 6 cents in the last week. Four out of five states saw gasoline prices rise by over a nickel in the last week, with more increases possible in the week ahead.

“Overall, the national average price of gas stands 35 cents higher than where it was a year ago on this day and the gap is likely to continue widening. For the upcoming year, it’s not a rosy picture at the pump: GasBuddy’s 2017 Fuel Outlook, being released tomorrow, will detail when motorists will be seeing the highest prices of the year and how many more billions we’ll spend at the pump in the year ahead,” DeHaan added.

Head of Petroleum Analysis (USA)

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.