AAA: Hurricane Irma could drive gas prices even higher

By Bill O’Boyle - [email protected] | September 5th, 2017 3:53 pm - updated: 6:21 pm.

WILKES-BARRE — The damage and flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey is still driving gas prices upward, but the focus is now turning to Hurricane Irma and what a double whammy of weather chaos could mean for drivers.

The average price per gallon in Wilkes-Barre was at $2.86 — up 2 cents overnight and 33 cents in the last week, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.

In Pennsylvania, gas was at $2.87 Tuesday, up 2 cents overnight and 32 cents in the last week.

The national gas average was $2.65, up a penny overnight and 27 cents over the last seven days. AAA says motorists in 26 states are paying 25 to 44 cents more for a gallon of unleaded compared to seven days ago.

In fact, every state in the country has seen gas prices spike except four — Alaska, Idaho, Hawaii and Utah — where prices remain stable. Overall, prices are pennies away from topping the highest price — $2.67 on Aug. 15-18, 2015 — Americans have paid for a gallon of gas in more than two years.

And as Texas dries out from Harvey, AAA says all eyes are on Hurricane Irma, now a Category 5 hurricane.

According to the National Hurricane Center, there is an increasing chance the Florida Peninsula and the Florida Keys may see some problems this coming weekend.

“AAA will continue to monitor Irma’s path and the potential impact the hurricane could have on residents in the area, as well as the refineries, pipelines and supply distribution components,” said Jeanette Casselano, AAA spokesperson.

The Department of Energy is reporting that eight Gulf Coast refineries are in the process of restarting, which accounts for about 10 percent of Gulf Coast refining capabilities. At its peak, Harvey shuttered 27 percent of U.S. processing capacity. No refineries have returned to normal rates, but at least four are operating at reduced rates.

Meanwhile, pipelines forced to make precautionary shutdowns have either resumed operations or are in the process of coming back online.

In response to refineries and pipeline shutdowns last week, the DOE authorized the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to release 5.6 million barrels of crude oil.

With more than 50 inches of rain in some spots, Harvey set a record for the highest amount of single-storm rainfall for the continental U.S.

“News of refineries starting up is very promising, especially for areas that have felt tightened supply levels over the last 10 days, but we aren’t in the clear yet,” Casselano said in a press release. “Consumers will continue to feel pain at the pump stemming from Harvey with gas prices potentially increasing an additional 5 to 10 cents in the week ahead. The good news is consumers will see relief from the gas price spike towards the end of this month.”

Today, 74 percent of U.S. gas stations are selling gas for $2.75 or less while only 7 percent are selling it for more than $3 a gallon.

Other areas have also seen sharp hikes in prices:

• New Jersey, $2.79, up 2 cents overnight and up 40 cents in the last week.

• Delaware, $2.69 today, unchanged overnight and up 44 cents in the last week.

• Maryland, $2.74 today, up 2 cents overnight, up 41 cents in the last week.

• Philadelphia (five-county area), $2.92 today, up 2 cents overnight and up 36 cents in the last week.

• South Jersey, $2.73 today, up a penny overnight and up 42 cents in the last week.

AAA Mid-Atlantic Logo.jpg Mid-Atlantic Logo.jpg

By Bill O’Boyle

[email protected]

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.