AAA Mid-Atlantic: Year-end pump prices to be highest since 2014

By Bill O’Boyle - [email protected]
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WILKES-BARRE — It looks like it’s going to cost motorists a bit more to fuel their personal shopping sleighs this holiday season than in recent years — there will be no significant savings at the gas pump.

AAA Mid-Atlantic reports that in the Wilkes-Barre region, gas prices are 34 cents higher than this time last year.

Monday’s national gas price average was $2.51 per gallon, which is 38 cents more than this time last year. While AAA does expect gas prices to decline between now and the end of the year, motorists will still be paying the highest November and December gas prices since 2014.

“Despite a forecasted five to 20 cent decrease in the coming weeks, motorists will see higher than expected December gas prices, especially compared to year-end prices from 2015 and 2016,” said Jana L. Tidwell, manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Driving factors for cheaper gas prices this winter include colder temperatures, the threat of inclement weather and online shopping.”

In 2017, Tidwell said gas prices have strayed from typical trends. Historically, she said year-end gas prices tend to be relatively cheap due to a drop-off in fall gasoline demand around Labor Day and the move to cheaper to produce winter-blend gasoline in mid-September.

This year, however, Tidwell said the typical factors that drive gas prices down in winter were outweighed by the impact of two major hurricanes, steady consumer demand and continued growth in gasoline exports.

2017’s Tumultuous Trends

Highs and Lows: Summer driving season traditionally brings the highest gas prices of the year and year-end brings the lowest, but not this year:

2017 High: $2.67 on September 11.

2017 Low: $2.23 on July 5.

Exports: According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), in the first half of 2017 U.S. exports of total motor gasoline averaged a record high of 756,000 barrels per day (b/d), a three percent increase from the first half of 2016. The second half of 2017 has seen this trend continue to climb, with exports peaking to one of their highest points in 2017 — 906,000 b/d — last month.

Production: According to Baker Hughes, Inc., the total oil rig count is currently 747, which is 273 more rigs than last year’s count at this time. The U.S. oil rig count has increased steadily to new records.

Tidwell said many motorists in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast region have seen sizeable price increases at the pump during November, as current gasoline inventories were sitting at their lowest inventory points for this time of year since 2014. She said the increases were likely due to a lack of gasoline imports that has contributed to tighter than usual supply in the region. However, pump prices in the last week have started to decline and will continue to drop, especially if imports move into the region.

Look Ahead to 2018

AAA reports that motorists can expect gas prices to continue to trend cheaper the first few months of 2018, with potential to see the national gas price average in the $2.25 to $2.35 range by February.

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By Bill O’Boyle

[email protected]

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

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