Many Drivers May Pay Higher Gas Prices this Spring

Gas Prices
hand at gas pump

VIRGINIA BEACH, VA,  (Feb. 6, 2014) – Many drivers may pay more expensive gas prices this spring as refineries cut production to conduct seasonal maintenance. The national average price of gas could reach $3.55-$3.85 per gallon, according to AAA.

The current Virginia average is $3.27 for regular gas which is .28 cheaper than last year and .04 from last month. In the current Hampton Roads the average price for regular gas S3.16 which is .29 cents lower than last year and .12 cheaper than last month.   

“Winter weather, weak demand and sufficient supplies have kept gas prices relatively low recently, but this trend is unlikely to last much longer,” said Georjeane Blumling, spokesperson for AAA Tidewater. “Driving to the gas station could be a lot more frustrating as prices increase this spring.”

Prices generally rise in the spring because many refineries cut production to conduct seasonal maintenance, which can limit gasoline supplies and cause market uncertainty. This maintenance generally takes place between strong demand periods for heating oil in the winter and gasoline in the summer, and before the regulated switchover to summer-blend gasoline. This switchover process itself can further limit supplies and increase pump prices.  Last year the national average increased 49 cents per gallon over 41 days before peaking at $3.79 per gallon on Feb. 27. Gas prices similarly increased 56 cents per gallon in spring 2012 and 86 cents per gallon in 2011.

“Few other products can rise in price so suddenly,” continued Blumling “Just imagine if a cup of coffee or a hamburger changed its price daily like gasoline. The average American driver is forced to demonstrate a good deal of tolerance whenever they buy gas.”

After a springtime peak, gas prices generally fall as the refinery maintenance period ends and production returns to normal rates, though there could be temporary price increases as stations switch to summer-blend gasoline or because of unexpected problems. By late June the national average could drop to $3.30-$3.40 per gallon, which likely would be the lowest price until late autumn. Last year the national average reached a summer low of $3.47 per gallon on July 7. In Virginia, the average reached a summer low of $3.32 per gallon on July 7. Gas prices declined 61 cents from springtime peaks in summer 2012 and 44 cents in 2011.

In 2014, Gulf Coast refineries will likely have increased access to cheaper U.S. oil from the center of the country and refining capacity that is at historically high levels. These two factors alone would make the case that pump prices for south Atlantic region, which includes Virginia, to be lower this year. However, cheaper wholesale gasoline also increases the incentive to export product overseas, which increases demand and can put upward pressure on prices. 

By October, gas prices should start a long decline towards the end of the year due to weakening demand and the switchover to less expensive winter-blend gasoline. The national average last year reached a low of $3.18 per gallon on Nov. 12 and similarly averaged $3.22 per gallon in December 2012 and $3.21 per gallon in 2011. In Virginia, the lowest price for regular unleaded gasoline per gallon in 2013 was $3.05 on November 12th.

Prices along the Gulf Coast and in the central part of the country likely will be the least expensive due to lower taxes and access to abundant supplies of cheaper North American crude oil. Gas prices in some parts of the region may drop below $3.00 per gallon before the year is over.

The West Coast and the Northeast likely will have the most expensive gas prices due to higher taxes and because local refineries must rely on more costly, imported crude oil and gasoline due to infrastructure and pipeline limitations.

“Unexpected developments and events overseas could change AAA’s price outlook considerably, but there is little doubt that gas will cost more than most of us would like in 2014,” continued Blumling. “The best advice for dealing with another tough year is to follow simple gas savings tips such as shopping around, maintaining your car and driving the speed limit.”

Gas prices averaged $3.49 per gallon in 2013 and could average about five cents per gallon less in 2014. Many refineries have increased capacity to take advantage of the recent boom in North American crude oil production, which can limit peak prices and volatility. Gas prices in 2012 were the most expensive on record at $3.60 per gallon, followed by 2011 with an annual average of $3.51 per gallon.

AAA updates fuel price averages daily at www.FuelGaugeReport.AAA.com.

As part of North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA Tidewater Virginia provides its more than 325,000 members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding AAA Tidewater Virginia has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers.  For more information, visit AAA.com and follow us on Twitter at Twitter.com/AAATWnews.

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