GasBuddy: Many factors behind unusual jump in prices at the pump

While air temperatures may be cooling, they’re rising at the gas pump, with the national average up 2 cents in the last week to $2.55 per gallon, according to price-tracker GasBuddy.

“If you use gas prices to figure out the time of year it is, you’d probably think it’s spring based on the continued upward trend showing up in much of the country,” said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy. “Absent is the beloved fall at the pump that we’re used to that accompanies the fall weather, but apparently this year is playing a trick on motorists. The cheapest price this year was in July while the most expensive showed up after the driving season concluded as Harvey hit, and we may get closer to that mark as gasoline inventories continue to drift to new multi-year lows. It’s been a lousy time for motorists, and I’d expect to see some cut their spending during the holidays as gas prices are up.”

Oil prices remain just pennies away from multi-year highs at $56.93 per barrel Monday morning as concerns linger about Middle East tensions escalating and OPEC extending production cuts in a few weeks at its annual meeting. In addition, U.S. oil exports continue to grow, putting pressure on declining U.S. inventories.

“Colder weather, uncertainty over the corruption crackdown in Saudi Arabia and more tensions in the Middle East could overwhelm any hope that a strengthening Loonie might help see pump prices taper off this week,” said Dan McTeague, senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy. “Strong U.S. demand and exports of gasoline is a major factor supporting gas prices, now at levels that have not been seen in Canada in over two years.”

According to data released last Wednesday from the Energy Information Administration, U.S. gasoline inventories fell to their lowest in three years as the impact and outages from Hurricane Harvey still have not fully healed and refinery maintenance continues. Gasoline inventories fell over 3 million barrels while distillate inventories (diesel, heating oil, jet fuel) fell 3.4 million barrels. Gasoline inventories now stand 5.2% lower than a year ago while distillates have plummeted 15.5% in the last year. Such information has continued to put upward pressure on both gasoline and diesel prices in recent weeks.

Across the country, the largest changes in average gas prices by state: Indiana (-10 cents), Florida (+8 cents), Michigan (+7 cents), Ohio (-7 cents), Illinois (-7 cents), Oregon (+6 cents), Nebraska (+6 cents), Iowa (+5 cents), Georgia (+5 cents) and Texas (+5 cents).

States with the lowest average gas prices: Mississippi ($2.26), Alabama ($2.26), South Carolina ($2.29), Arkansas ($2.31), Louisiana ($2.31), Texas ($2.31), Tennessee ($2.31), Virginia ($2.34), Missouri ($2.35) and Oklahoma ($2.35).

States with the highest average gas prices: California ($3.23), Hawaii ($3.21), Alaska ($3.16), Washington ($2.97), Oregon ($2.83), Nevada ($2.81), Pennsylvania ($2.81), Connecticut ($2.73), Michigan ($2.72) and New York ($2.70).

Gas prices may moderate in the week ahead across some areas of the country (Midwest may see relief after chronic problems due to refineries and pipeline issues), while the West Coast and Northeast see prices continue to trend higher. Gulf Coast areas may see little change along with the Rockies.