WASHINGTON, Feb. 10 (UPI) -- AAA spokesman Michael Green said Monday gasoline prices may reach a seasonal peak in March or early April because of regular refinery maintenance.
The national average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline during last year's winter maintenance season peaked Feb. 27 at $3.79 per gallon. AAA reported a national average price Monday of $3.29, two cents higher than last week but 56 cents less than the same time last year.
Green said prices tend to increase as winter ends because refineries shut down for upgrades and regular maintenance. This in turn leads to a tight gasoline market and higher prices for consumers.
"It looks like the peak maintenance period this year will be in March, so it is likely that drivers will pay the highest prices sometime in March or early April," he said in response to email questions.
Green said some of the refinery maintenance is already showing up at the pump because the energy market is starting to price the anticipated shutdown into the consumer end.
"Retail prices have now increased for three days in a row for a total of nearly three cents per gallon," he said. "The bad news is that prices are likely to rise another 30-50 cents per gallon before we will see any relief."