U.S. average gas prices rise for first time in nearly three weeks

(February 17, 2016) WASHINGTON — The national average price of gas increased today for the first time in 20 days, but average prices are still at levels not seen since January 2009. The national average has fallen for 42 out of 47 days this year for a total savings of 30 cents per gallon, according to AAA.

Today’s average price of $1.70 represents a savings of three cents per gallon on the week, 20 cents per gallon on the month and 55 cents per gallon compared to this same date last year.

Typical for this time of year, refinery production is beginning to drop as many refineries prepare for seasonal maintenance in advance of the summer driving season. In addition, some refineries reportedly have cut production because of abundant supplies and low prices. This decline in production has led to higher prices throughout the Midwest and slowed recent declines in the national average price of gas.

Industry analysts expect this year’s spring maintenance season to peak in April, and pump prices are likely to rise in the coming months due to fluctuations in supply and demand associated with this process. However, unlike previous years, gasoline inventories are reportedly at higher-than-normal levels and the price of crude oil remains low. The combination of these two factors should help keep gas prices relatively low compared to recent years, though prices are likely to be a good deal higher by Memorial Day than they are today.

Hawaii ($2.61) is the nation’s most expensive market for retail gasoline and averages in the state are 21 cents per gallon higher than second-place California ($2.40). Alaska ($2.26), Nevada ($2.07) and Washington ($2.04) round out the top five most expensive markets and are the only states where drivers are paying average prices above the $2 per gallon threshold.

The nation’s least expensive markets for gas are Oklahoma ($1.41), Missouri ($1.41) and Kansas ($1.44), and motorists in a total of 34 states are paying averages at or below $1.75 per gallon.

Gas prices in the majority of states (43) are down on the week. The largest weekly savings are in states west of the Rockies, including Nevada (-12 cents), California (-10 cents) and Arizona (-10 cents). Consumers in 11 states are benefitting from savings of a nickel or more per gallon over this same period. On the other end of the spectrum, prices are higher week-over-week in seven states with the biggest jumps in the Midwestern states of Indiana (+7 cents), Ohio (+7 cents) and Michigan (+6 cents).

Several refineries in this region have reduced production due to lower prices and abundant supplies, and pump prices could continue to rise throughout the region as a result.