Summer drivers see break at the pumps
Political and international pressures were supposed to make the usual rise of summer gas prices soar farther than in recent years, but those predictions have started to soften along with average pump prices across the nation.
As of Tuesday, the national average of gas prices had decreased for the third straight week, down 2.4 cents from the previous week. Americans are paying an average of $2.82 per gallon, according to data from 10 million price reports compiled by consumer price analysis service GasBuddy.
Prices usually rise along with warmer weather as refiners start mixing more costly blends to reduce smog during the heaviest driving season. Recent sanctions on Iranian crude and effects from the ongoing trade conflict were predicted to raise prices further.
Instead, GasBuddy’s head petroleum analyst Patrick DeHaan said, summer travelers have likely seen the worst of price increases.
“Overall, the biggest risk factors for rising gas prices this summer: unexpected refinery outages mainly in challenged areas like the Midwest or West Coast, a potential trade deal between the U.S. and China, and any rise in Middle East tensions, mainly between the U.S. and Iran,” DeHaan said in a statement. “Otherwise, expect this summer’s gas prices to be similar but lower than they were last year.”
West Texas Intermediate crude closed at $58.90 per barrel on Tuesday, down more than $3 from a week ago. Prices were likely influenced by Energy Information Administration data showing a large rise in crude oil, gasoline and distillate inventories and complications from the lack of a trade deal.
In Southeast Texas, prices have continued to tick up since January, when gasoline was an average of $1.85 a gallon. Prices in April averaged $2.40 a gallon, a 5 cent increase over last year and a nearly 30 cent increase from two years ago.
As of Tuesday, prices in the Beaumont-Port Arthur metro area held at $2.51 a gallon, according to data from AAA. Local prices are on par with statewide prices and are about 20 cents cheaper than the same time last year.
Prices actually fell during the runup to Memorial Day weekend, as they did nationally.
Not every part of Texas is feeling relief, though. East Texas and parts of the central Gulf Coast are enjoying some of the lowest prices, at an average of $2.40 per gallon. But average prices are up to around $3 a gallon in West Texas counties like Brewster and Presidio counties.
Unless news breaks on a trade deal with China, analysts are predicting that the average price in most states will continue to decline for at least several more weeks.