By Rick Popely on May 2, 2014
Gas prices increased in many parts of the country the past week, but AAA said the steady climb that started in early February may soon end, and pump prices could begin retreating. AAA predicted in its monthly gas report that prices will decline as refineries complete routine spring maintenance and the annual changeover to summer gas blends, allowing production to return to normal levels. AAA noted that the national average price for gas typically peaks in the spring and declines through early summer.
"It is possible that gas prices may rise somewhat higher in the coming days, but a little relief should be in sight," AAA spokesman Avery Ash said in a news release. "With any luck most of us will pay lower prices by the time everyone hits the road for Memorial Day."
According to the the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report, the national average for a gallon of regular unleaded gas reached a calendar-year high of $3.70 on Monday, but by Thursday had eased back to $3.69, a penny more than a week ago. That 1-cent rise was enough to extend the streak of weekly price increases to a dozen. The national average has climbed 42 cents since Feb. 6.
Diesel fuel was unchanged at $3.96 a gallon for the third week in a row. The national average for diesel is only a penny higher than a month ago but 12 cents higher than a year ago. In contrast, regular gas is 13 cents higher than a month ago and 17 cents more than on May 1, 2014.
The price of regular unleaded peaked at $3.79 in late February last year, and AAA predicts it won't go that high this year.
Even so, AAA said motorists in 37 states and the District of Columbia are paying double-digit premiums for regular unleaded compared to a year ago, when prices had peaked and were headed downward.
Among states with the biggest year-over-year increases were Delaware, 30 cents; Alabama, 31 cents; and California, 36 cents.
California had the highest average price among the continental states at $4.26 per gallon, and was second only to Hawaii's $4.38. The average for regular unleaded in New York state rose 4 cents in the past week to $3.92 and 5 cents in Connecticut to $3.95. The average has increased 10 cents in New York and 13 cents in Connecticut during the past two weeks.
Utah had the biggest weekly increase, jumping 10 cents to a statewide average of $3.54 as of Thursday, 22 cents more than two weeks ago. Idaho's average rose 6 cents to $3.54, and motorists there were paying 15 cents more than two weeks ago.
Prices dropped in some areas, particularly the Great Lakes states. They fell 2 cents in Illinois to $3.88; 5 cents in Ohio to $3.69; 9 cents in Indiana to $3.71; and 10 cents in Michigan to $3.73.
Prices varied widely within states because of local refinery and supply issues and taxes at the pump. The $4.07 average for the Chicago metropolitan area, for example, was 19 cents more than the statewide average. In the city of Chicago, the average pump price was $4.29, 41 cents more than in the rest of the state.
Motorists were paying $4.32 a gallon in Los Angeles and $4.33 in San Francisco, both higher than the $4.26 state average.
In the District of Columbia, the average was $3.90, while in nearby suburbs in Maryland it was $3.73.
Cars.com photo by Evan Sears
Contributor Rick Popely has covered the auto industry for decades and hosts a weekly online radio show on TalkZone.com . Email Rick