Feb. 15 (UPI) -- A retail price watchdog said this may be the short-term seasonal low point for U.S. gasoline prices as refiners start switching to a different blend.
"You've been warned," an emailed report from GasBuddy.com read. "Gas prices are about to get pumped up, eventually climbing to the year's highest levels as refineries across the nation are preparing for maintenance season and the seasonal switch to cleaner burning gasoline, a tradition despised by many."
The price watchdog group lists an average retail price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline at about $2.26, relatively steady over the last week. Gas prices have moved more or less in parallel with crude oil prices, which have traded in a narrow band around the $55 per barrel mark since late last year.
GasBuddy explains retail gasoline prices usually spike in the weeks heading into the Memorial Day holiday season as refiners work to meet environmental requirements necessary for warmer summer months. Last year, the national average price for gasoline increased 69 cents during the regular refinery maintenance season.
Dan McTeague, a senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy, said that, in relative terms, gasoline prices will be less expensive than they were a few years ago.
"Overall, most areas will see peak prices under $3 per gallon, and while that's far under prices a few years ago, watching prices surge every spring certainly brings heart burn with it," he said.
A federal report found retail gas prices declined from the average of $2.35 in January to the current level, though prices should move back up to $2.33 on average next month.
"U.S. regular gasoline retail prices are forecast to average $2.39 per gallon in 2017 and $2.44 per gallon in 2018," the report read.