NEWS

Gas Prices Remain Well Under $2 a Gallon Despite Spike

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CARS.COM — Pump prices jumped by double digits in several states the past week as seasonal maintenance at refineries reduced gasoline production and crude oil sustained a recent comeback on global markets. The AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report on Thursday said that the national average for regular gas has increased for 9 days in a row and was $1.80 a gallon, up 9 cents from a week ago — but many motorists saw much higher increases.

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Average prices climbed the past week by 17 cents in Indiana; 18 cents in Michigan and Minnesota; 19 cents in Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska; and 20 cents in Oklahoma.

“Swings in gas prices at the regional level are typical for this time of year as many refineries conduct maintenance in advance of the busy summer driving season,” AAA said in a release. “Despite these seasonal increases, abundant gasoline supplies and lower crude oil costs should keep gas prices from rising as high as drivers have seen in recent years.”

In California, where prices had been steadily sliding for weeks, the average for regular gas rose 12 cents to $2.43 a gallon. GasBuddy.com analyst Patrick DeHaan said to expect more of the same as refineries switch to summer gasoline blends that are more expensive to produce than the winter blends being phased out.

He noted that price changes might vary widely in different areas because refinery maintenance and changing to summer gas isn’t always a smooth, predictable process.

“Occasionally, this work goes longer than expected or results in temporary glitches and can lead to tight supply as refiners make the seasonal switch, leading to hotspots in fuel prices across the nation,” he said.

Arizona had the lowest statewide average at $1.54 a gallon, unchanged from a week ago, AAA said. South Carolina was next at $1.56, followed by New Jersey at $1.57. The most expensive gas was in Hawaii, where the average price for regular was $2.55, followed by California at $2.43 and Alaska at $2.19. (Prices fluctuate throughout the day and could change.)

AAA said the average price for premium gas was $2.28, up 7 cents from a week ago, while diesel fuel went unchanged at $1.98. Diesel has defied the typical seasonal pattern of higher prices during the winter and is 93 cents cheaper than a year ago. Regular gas is 64 cents cheaper than a year ago and premium is 55 cents cheaper.

At the same time that refinery maintenance and the change to summer gas blends is occurring, U.S. oil prices have hovered around $34 a barrel in recent weeks, bouncing back from a recent low of around $27 and adding to price pressures. Oil analysts, though, say a global glut should keep a lid on oil prices.

Despite the recent price hikes at the pump, motorists are paying far less now than they were four years ago, when the national average for regular was $3.77, nearly $2 more. Just one year ago, Californians were paying nearly $1 more than they are now.

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