Augusta Free Press

AAA: Area gas price increases persist

Much like last week, consumers saw a slight increase in both local and national gas prices this week. Drivers in Virginia have seen prices increase in some areas by up to 10 cents (Norfolk) since last month.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports that despite gasoline demand increasing, gasoline inventories also increased. Demand is expected to decrease in the coming weeks, and gas prices should follow, but drivers should not get used to that trend as maintenance season kicks in for refineries and gas stations switch to a summer blend of gasoline.

“The demand for gasoline is expected to wane in the coming weeks, as motorists hunker down for winter. This will likely result in a slight dip in prices later this month,” said Tammy Arnette, Senior Public Affairs Specialist for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “However, any price drop will be short-lived with refinery maintenance season just around the corner.”

Today’s national gas price average is $2.53, which is up four cents in the last week, up eight cents in the last month and 19 cents higher than this time last year.

At the close of NYMEX trading Friday, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil settled at $64.30 per barrel, $2.86 higher than the previous week and closing above $61 each day this week. U.S. government data revealed an eighth-straight weekly decline in U.S. crude stockpiles, and a noted decrease in domestic crude production. The market is showing greater optimism about the potential of prices continuing to climb in 2018, as OPEC’s agreement to reduce production will remain in effect through the end of this year and will help to restrain growing inventories.

According to the EIA, U.S. regular gasoline retail prices averaged $2.48 per gallon in December, down almost nine cents per gallon from the average in November, but 22 cents per gallon higher than at the same time last year. U.S. regular gasoline retail prices averaged $2.42 per gallon in 2017 and are forecast to average $2.57 per gallon in 2018 and $2.58 per gallon in 2019.