WASHINGTON, April 26 (UPI) -- Consumer demand for gasoline is pushing the price at the pump higher for Americans, though it remains low historically speaking, retail analysis finds.
Motor club AAA reports a national average retail price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline at $2.14, about 1.4 percent higher than last week and more than 5 percent than this time in March. At this time last year, the national average was $2.53 per gallon.
Retail prices typically elevate during the spring as refiners switch from a winter to a summer blend of gasoline, which is more expensive to make. Drivers, meanwhile, look to break cabin fever by hitting the roads and both factors influence the balance between supply and demand.
In a separate statement emailed to UPI, Will Speer, an analyst with retail price watchdog group GasBuddy, said gasoline demand is higher than in previous years.
"Leading the demand surge has been gasoline, where the Energy Information Administration shows year-to-date demand to be up 3.4 percent from last year and up 7.4 percent from 2014," he said.
AAA forecasts that refiners, however, are working to keep pace with demand, though that could present maintenance issues because of the strain on equipment and overall operations. A string of refinery issues in Midwest states last year pushed regional gas prices above the $3 mark, well above the national average at the time.
Nevertheless, AAA said that, by summer, U.S. drivers should see the lowest prices at the pump in more than a decade. The "mystery," it added, was where prices are headed for crude oil, which accounts for a large percentage of the price at the pump. With U.S. oil production in decline, and overseas producers considering holding their levels steady, oil prices are rallying strongly from lows below $30 per barrel earlier this year. If prices recover too strongly, AAA notes, U.S. oil production could start to recover.
"As a result of this dynamic, the global oil market is expected to remain well supplied, keeping the price at the pump relatively low compared to previous years," it said in its weekly retail market report.