CHICAGO, Feb. 17 (UPI) -- The rebound in crude oil prices in February is largely behind the steady increase in retail gasoline prices, an analyst at pricewatcher GasBuddy.com said.
Crude oil prices have recovered more than 20 percent of their value since the end of January in part because the 2014 slump in prices left energy companies with less money to spend on exploration and production.
Patrick DeHaan, a senior analyst at GasBuddy.com, said that increase is showing up at the pump.
"Prices at the pump are starting to heat back up, mostly driven by a rebound in crude oil prices," he said in a statement Monday. "Nationally, almost 9 in 10 stations are selling over $2 per gallon, while a month ago, less than half of stations were selling over that price."
GasBuddy.com shows a national average price Tuesday of around $2.26 for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline, up about a penny from the previous day and 19 cents above the national average one month ago. U.S. gasoline prices are still relatively low, however. The price on this date in 2014 was $3.35.
The steady increase in gasoline prices is also a result of a regular maintenance season at U.S. refineries. Starting in February, refiners start preparing to make a summer blend of gasoline, which is more expensive to produce because of the preparations needed to keep fuel from vaporizing during warmer temperatures.
"Clearly we're seeing the typical seasonal rebound in prices," DeHaan said.
Most analysts expect the national average price to say below the $3 per gallon mark. Prices last year peaked at around $3.70 per gallon in May and DeHaan said most retail markets should stay about $1 below that threshold.