What’s causing rising gas prices and when will it end?

JACKSON HOLE, WYO — With the national average price of gasoline seeing its largest seasonal rise since 2011, motorists are probably ready for a well-deserved break when it comes to rising gas prices. GasBuddy, the smartphone app connecting drivers with their Perfect Pit Stop, this week predicted relief is likely just days away. Most areas of the country will begin to see lower prices ushered in by Memorial Day, while others may lag behind.

“It’s been a rough spring at the pump with prices advancing at a maddening pace and multi-year highs happening in more places than I can count on two hands,” said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. “We’re cautiously optimistic now that the worst is behind us and relief is on the horizon for nearly every area in the country. Motorists shouldn’t get too impatient- this won’t happen overnight- but as stations begin to fill their tanks with slightly cheaper gasoline, they’ll begin to pass the savings on, just in time for Memorial Day and beyond.”

The year-to-date rise in gasoline prices hasn’t been this bad in years; 2018: 33c/gal, 2017: 1c/gal, 2016: 22c/gal, 2015: 43c/gal, 2014: 35c/gal, 2013: 24c/gal, 2012: 49c/gal, 2011: 92c/gal, 2010: 27c/gal, 2009: 55c/gal, (Decade average: 41c/gal).

The seasonal rise in gasoline prices has been enhanced this year by myriad issues: rising oil prices (Iran sanctions, OPEC production cuts and rising demand, just to name a few), refinery maintenance that stretches from March to May resulting in less gasoline being produced as inspections, repairs and upgrades are performed and the switch to summer gasoline. Some refiners are continuing maintenance into late-May, so while the coast may be clear for many, it’s not there for everyone just yet.

While the West Coast has been particularly hard hit as unexpected outages combined with normal maintenance has led to tight gasoline inventories and skyrocketing prices, prices are about to start dropping in those hardest hit areas first, with the usual caveat that further outages could interrupt that relief.

Gas prices in California will likely drop back under $4 per gallon by the time gas stations have fully passed along the lower prices in the weeks ahead, and hopefully won’t see such prices again all summer as refineries ramp up production, leading to an increase in supply.

Most states will see average gas prices begin to tiptoe lower in the next few weeks, continuing into June as supplies of summer gasoline build. Barring a major reversal, it appears that, for the time being, a national average of $3 per gallon is off the table after coming within 10 cents of it both last year and this year.

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