Gas Prices Rise 3 Cents, Continue to Defy Projections

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CARS.COM — Pump prices soared in Southeastern states the past week and some stations ran out of fuel after a gasoline pipeline leak in Alabama created shortages across the South. The pipeline, owned by Colonial Pipeline, was restarted Wednesday evening after repairs, but the company said it would take several days for gasoline supplies to return to normal. The company has estimated that 252,000 to 336,000 gallons of gasoline leaked from the line.

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The AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report said Thursday that the national average for regular gas was $2.21 a gallon, just 3 cents higher than a week ago. That figure was misleading though, as prices in Georgia jumped 26 cents to $2.37, and in South Carolina they rose 21 cents to $2.14. Before the pipeline leak, South Carolina had the lowest average price for regular in the country. News reports said stations in those states, along with North Carolina and Tennessee, ran out of gas earlier this week as motorists rushed to fill their tanks.

Prices rose 12 cents in Virginia, 13 cents in Alabama, 16 cents in Tennessee and 17 cents in North Carolina.

The pipeline funnels gas from Gulf Coast refineries to Southeastern states and states further up the East Coast, but those further north were not as affected. The average price rose 3 cents in New Jersey to $1.999, according to AAA. New York's average price for regular was unchanged at $2.32.

Elsewhere, price changes were mixed the past week.

Prices fell by 1 to 2 cents in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas, which had the lowest average for regular Thursday at $1.95 a gallon. New Jersey and Mississippi were the only other states averaging less than $2 a gallon.

Six states, all in the West, averaged $2.50 a gallon or higher, and prices rose by small amounts in all of them the past week. They are Alaska, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. Hawaii had the highest average at $2.82. In the Great Lakes area, where prices tend to be more volatile, Indiana motorists saw pump prices rise by 10 cents, but in neighboring Michigan and Ohio they fell by 6 cents.

Premium gas rose 2 cents the past week to a national average of $2.71 a gallon, and diesel fuel was unchanged at $2.36.

Though analysts predicted that prices would fall after Labor Day, the national average for regular has hardly changed. That has allowed the gap in prices compared to this time last year to narrow. In 2015, gas declined steadily after Labor Day to dip below $2 a gallon by Christmas.

The national average for regular gas is 7 cents lower than a year ago, and premium is 8 cents lower. Diesel fuel is 14 cents less than a year ago.

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Contributor Rick Popely has covered the auto industry for decades and hosts a weekly online radio show on TalkZone.com.  Email Rick