PhotoWith U.S. oil refineries cutting back on gasoline production during spring maintenance, and the switch over to summer blend fuel, the price of gasoline is rising nationwide.

According to the AAA Fuel Gauge Survey, the national Average price of self-serve regular is now at $2.03 a gallon, up a nickel from a week ago but nearly 32 cents higher than last month. AAA says it's the first time this year the average price has exceeded the $2 a gallon mark.

For motorists, there should be no cause for alarm at the sudden increase. The weeks just before the start of the summer driving season tend to be the time when gasoline is most expensive.

Demand begins to increase during this time, and the refineries need several weeks to build up an ample supply of summer-grade gasoline. The fact that many refineries are still conducting maintenance is another contributing factor.

Maintenance in high gear

“The Midwest (PADD 2) saw a large- nearly 5%- decline in refinery utilization last week, indicating maintenance is kicking into high gear,” Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst at Gasbuddy, tweeted this week.

Drivers in the west are feeling considerably more pain at the pump than consumers in other parts of the country. California motorists are paying an average of $2.75 a gallon, the highest in the nation and up a dime from seven days ago, and 44 cents more than last month. The average price in Nevada is $2.38 a gallon, also up a dime a gallon in the last week.

Midwest and east also feel the pain

In the Midwest, drivers in Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, and Wisconsin are all paying more than $2 a gallon on average. In the east, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Maine, Maryland, and Washington, DC all have average gas prices north of $2.

The south and southwest, as usual, are enjoying the nation's lowest average gas prices. South Carolina has the cheapest price, at $1.84 a gallon. Missouri is next, at $1.86, followed by Oklahoma, at $1.87.

In fact, AAA says consumers in 45 states and Washington, DC are paying more for gasoline this week than they did last week. If the normal seasonal pattern holds true, prices will peak around Memorial Day, then start to drift lower in early July.


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