Prepare for prices to continue to rise at the pump this spring.
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The national average price of gasoline as of Friday was $2.61 per gallon, according to AAA, up from $2.38 one month ago and up around 35 cents since January. Prices are reaching multi-month highs and all signs point to a continuation of the upward trend.
“Most refiners are trying to avoid maintenance this autumn, as profits will likely be higher later this year,” DeHaan said. “That means more refineries are doing maintenance this spring instead of this fall, crimping gasoline supply just as we're making the seasonal changes to the EPA-mandated specifications.”
The price of crude oil has also had a small impact – hovering around $60 per barrel, thanks to OPEC production cuts – which are intended to lift prices – and the crisis in Venezuela.
Meanwhile, massive flooding across parts of the Midwest could contribute to short-term pain at the pump for some.
“Midwest flooding may play a small role in prices on the coastal regions – trains loaded with ethanol that is blended into much of the nation's gasoline are finding it hard to get around the floodwaters in the region,” DeHaan said, adding that distribution for coastal areas could be hindered, impacting on prices.
DeHaan estimates gas prices could rise by as much as 30 cents per gallon before peaking in April or May – while the national average could near $3 per gallon.
The good news? After peaking this spring, DeHaan predicts prices will fall back down to the $2.50 to $2.70 per gallon level for the summer months.
As of Friday, California had some of the highest gas prices in the country – at $3.43 per gallon – followed by Hawaii at $3.39 and Washington at about $3.02.