Gas prices vary widely leading up to Memorial Day

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) The national average price for a gallon of gas isn’t much different than it was in 2012 and 2013, however statewide averages vary by more than a dollar a gallon.

GasBuddy, which powers the Gas Gauge, released its Memorial Day weekend forecast which indicates the disparity in prices is the greatest in recent memory.

The nationwide average for the holiday weekend is likely to be between $3.60-$3.64 a gallon, or within a few pennies of the $3.64 gallon average from Memorial Day 2012 and the $3.63 a gallon average on the holiday in 2013. But statewide averages should range between $3.35 a gallon and $4.35 a gallon.

One year ago, Minnesotans faced average unleaded regular prices of $4.20-$4.30 a gallon ahead of Memorial Day weekend. This year, those same Minnesotan drivers find average prices of $3.50 a gallon.

The rest of the U.S. heartland finds distinctly advantaged prices when compared to last year. Average price decreases of 10-30 cents per gallon regularly show up in Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

In contrast, consumers in about half of the fifty states now see average gasoline prices that are 10-30 cents a gallon higher when compared to last year. Pennsylvania motorists are the most adversely impacted, paying about 30 cents a gallon more than what they shelled out for fuel one year ago. Smaller, but considerable, year-on-year increases show up at every East and Gulf Coast state as well as a few western states such as California and Nevada.

GasBuddy analysis suggests that the prognosis for the first two months of the driving season is for continued temperate prices. The restart of major refineries that are moving through second quarter maintenance should insure that gasoline production is near record levels. Meanwhile, efficiency gains in the light vehicle fleet and demographic changes in the population (older people tend to drive less) should combine to keep motor fuel demand flat at best.

Gasoline prices for the latter part of the driving season will be tied to the 2014 Hurricane Season. The U.S. has added plenty of refining capacity this century, but most of the additional capacity lies between Corpus Christi, Texas and Pascagoula, Mississippi. An active storm season could inspire precautionary shutdowns that might tighten supplies through the broad geography that is supplied by Gulf Coast refiners. Refinery shutdowns could resonate loudly through several dozen states, since some Gulf Coast refiners have export commitments to foreign countries.

Postscript: Most people inaccurately assume that gasoline prices rise from Memorial Day through July 4th, but in fact, GasBuddy data shows that motor fuel prices have dropped in nine out of the last fourteen years in this century. The last year that saw higher prices on July 4 than on Memorial Day weekend was 2009. The national average price has drifted
lower in each of the last four years by 23 cents a gallon.


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