GasBuddy: National gas price average picking up steam

(GasBuddy) The national average price of gasoline has picked up steam again after a brief respite, rising nearly 3 cents per gallon to $2.58 per gallon Monday, the highest level in 131 days since Hurricane Harvey battered Texas, closing nearly a third of U.S. refining capacity. Few states were left unscathed as prices rose in 48 of the nation’s 50 states.

“With oil maintaining strength, gasoline prices have continued to climb in many places, rising to their highest level since Hurricane Harvey dealt a blow to Texas and a significant portion of U.S. refining capacity,” said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy. “This time around, oil prices have been the culprit for gasoline prices rising to their highest level in over 130 days, and with U.S. crude oil inventories plummeting for 10 straight weeks, I see diminishing chances of the traditional winter relief that accompanies the year’s coldest months. Without gas prices falling, the current price environment may be the floor for what could become a more expensive year than anticipated, barring any change to OPEC policy that has led to today’s climate of lower supply and higher prices.”

Contributing to the nation’s upward trend: oil prices have continued to show impressive strength, no doubt as U.S. oil inventories declined for a tenth straight week and U.S. oil exports remain near record level, putting plenty of pressure on prices to remain high.

According to the Energy Information Administration in its weekly report, U.S. crude oil inventories fell by 1.1 million barrels, the smallest in weeks, but pushing oil inventories to nearly 77 million barrels below their year-ago level. U.S. oil inventories now stand at their lowest level in nearly three years. Adding insult to injury is that oil inventories at key delivery point Cushing, OK fell below 40 million barrels for the first time in years as oil exports remain strong.

Gasoline inventories again moved higher by 3.1 million barrels, likely due to refinery utilization that remained strong seasonally but fell from prior weeks to 90.9%. It is common to see big builds in both oil and gasoline inventories during the mid-to-late winter due to soft demand, but with strong exports and OPEC production following the group’s decision from November 2016, oil prices and thus gasoline prices remain strong.

Looking state-by-state, the largest weekly changes in average gas prices were seen in: North Dakota (+8 cents), Nebraska (+7 cents), Iowa (+7 cents), Missouri (+6 cents), Oklahoma (+6 cents), Michigan (+6 cents), Minnesota (+6 cents), Mississippi (+5 cents), Kansas (+5 cents) and Arkansas (+4 cents).

States with the lowest average gasoline prices: South Carolina ($2.33), Texas ($2.34), Alabama ($2.35), Mississippi ($2.36), Arkansas ($2.36), Missouri ($2.37), Oklahoma ($2.38), Louisiana ($2.39), New Mexico ($2.39) and Tennessee ($2.40).

States with the highest average gasoline prices: Hawaii ($3.36), California ($3.22), Alaska ($3.11), Washington ($2.94), Pennsylvania ($2.87), Oregon ($2.81), Nevada ($2.76), New York ($2.74), Connecticut ($2.73) and New Jersey ($2.67).

Gasoline prices may see yet another weekly rise in the coming week in many states due to pressures from high crude oil prices while gas prices in the Great Lakes states may decline for at least a solid portion of the week.