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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Prices at the gas pump have now increased 12 of the past 17 days and each of the past six, following a streak where the national retail average price of gasoline dropped on 54 out of 55 days, according to the AAA Newsroom.
The national average for a gallon of regular unleaded gas is $2.16 per gallon as of Aug. 22, which is four cents more than one week ago but two cents less than a month ago, 46 cents less than the same date last year and the lowest price for this date since 2004.
Gas prices have been driven by crude oil prices surging more than 20 percent this month and refinery issues impacting production in some regions, AAA said. Numerous refineries in the Gulf Coast are undergoing unplanned maintenance due to flooding in Louisiana and refinery fire in Texas. Drivers in the Midwest and Central United States continue to see the most dramatic price movement as the impact of outages has pushed prices higher.
Although gas prices have risen in 42 states over the past week, domestic gasoline supplies remain high and oil prices remain relatively lower compared to recent years, indicating that prices are likely to remain cheap through the rest of the summer and into the fall. AAA predicted prices could even fall below $2 per gallon once the summer driving season ends as many regions transition to cheaper winter-blend gasoline. However, a major market-moving event such as a hurricane or further increasing crude oil costs could offset this decline and temporarily send gas prices higher.
Average gas prices are below $2 per gallon in nine states, three fewer than one week ago: South Carolina ($1.87), Alabama ($1.90), Mississippi ($1.93), Virginia ($1.95), Tennessee ($1.95), New Jersey ($1.96), Arkansas ($1.99), Texas ($1.99) and Louisiana ($1.97). West Coast drivers are still paying the highest prices for gasoline despite featuring five of the six states with week-over-week savings. This region includes the seven highest state averages and the four states where the average is above $2.50 per gallon: Hawaii ($2.69), California ($2.66), Washington ($2.58) and Alaska ($2.55).
Despite the high overall prices, drivers in West Coast states are among the only ones who saw state prices drop over the past week, and many feature prominently in the ranking of the largest year-over-year discounts, including three of the top four savings in the U.S.: Alaska (down 89 cents), California (down 84 cents) and Nevada (down 77 cents). Although weekly discounts exist in parts of the region, California prices moved higher due to an issue at the Wilmington, Calif., Valero refinery that produces approximately 87,000 barrels per day when running at capacity. If this facility is delayed in returning to production, it could reverse the recent declines in other parts of the region.
Gas prices in the Rocky Mountains have remained relatively stable compared to other markets, primarily because there have been few regional production disruptions in recent months as well as their geographic location. Being located in the center of the country helps to insulate the region from coastal price swings. Barring unforeseen production issues, lower prices could arrive in mid-September when the transition to winter-blend gasoline occurs.
The Great Lakes region continues to see the highest gas prices in the nation due to tightening supplies compared to other regions, along with refinery issues that have limited production at some facilities. Recent weeks have seen a mix of increases and decreases, but over the past week, regional prices have moved universally higher, with Midwestern states filling the top five increases during this time: Indiana (10 cents), Kentucky (10 cents), Delaware (9 cents), Michigan (8 cents) and Ohio (8 cents). This volatility has been pressured by operations at the Whiting, Ind., BP refinery, which is the region's largest facility and has been slow to come back online following production problems.
Prices for drivers in the Central U.S. remain some of the cheapest, despite prices following the national average higher over the past week, and three states in the region feature in the top 15 lowest: Tennessee ($1.95), Missouri ($2.01) and Oklahoma ($2.07). Meanwhile prices in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast have moved higher, despite still seeing prices that are largely cheaper than one month ago, with three Mid-Atlantic states featuring in the top ten weekly increases in the nation: Delaware (9 cents), Maryland (7 cents) and Pennsylvania (7 cents).
Drivers in the South and Southeast still make up the bulk of those paying pump prices below $2 per gallon. Despite several recent regional production issues, seven states still place in the 10 cheapest states in the nation: South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana and North Carolina.