May 21, 2013
AAA sees gas prices rising into Memorial Day weekend
By Talia Buford
The seasonal Memorial Day rise in gasoline prices is likely to bump up the cost of filling up the car this weekend, but much of the pain will hit motorists in the Midwest and on the West Coast, where a confluence of factors is leading to all-time highs leading into the holiday.
AAA predicts that come Memorial Day weekend, the average price of a gallon of gasoline will rise above the $3.64 level motorists saw on Memorial Day in 2012 and the $3.79 recorded in 2011. The national average for a gallon of unleaded regular is currently $3.65, AAA said, the highest since March, but still 4 cents below the year-ago levels.
Gas prices, which have been hovering below year-ago levels for nearly three months, have climbed 14 cents in the last month, a reversal of the direction seen last year when prices fell in the run-up to the long Memorial Day holiday weekend.
In Minnesota and North Dakota, prices have soared by 68 and 63 cents, respectively, setting new all-time highs for this time of year, according to AAA’s Weekly Fuel Gauge report. Prices have climbed 50 cents in the last two weeks in Nebraska, Iowa and Oklahoma, stopping just 10 cents shy of those states’ all-time highs.
“Higher crude oil prices may be the reason that drivers in every state are paying more for gasoline than two weeks ago, but tight regional supplies and refinery maintenance — both planned and unplanned — are the reason for the dramatically higher pump prices in the Midwest and West Coast,” according to Avery Ash, regulatory affairs manager for AAA.
Those factors are coupled with the severe weather currently working its way through the Midwest, including twisters that ravaged North Texas last week and a tornado that hit Oklahoma City on Monday. No refineries have reported disruptions yet, Ash said, “but the potential remains for additional refinery issues in the already supply-strapped region.”
West Texas Intermediate crude oil prices closed at $96.71 per barrel on the NYMEX Monday, the highest price in six weeks.