Feb. 28 (UPI) -- U.S. retail gasoline prices are following oil markets by staying more or less even, but that will change mid-March with a new blend of gas, analysis finds.
Motor club AAA reports a national average retail price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline at $2.28 for Tuesday morning, a price point that's fluctuated by fractions of a percentage point for most of February.
Crude oil prices account for most of what shows up at the pump for consumers and those markets have been relatively stable despite wide day-to-day movements. The price for Brent crude oil, the global benchmark, started February at $55.79 per barrel and was trading at around $55.75 per barrel in early morning trading.
Crude oil prices are trading in a narrow band around $55 per barrel amid competing narratives on the global market. Members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries put a set limit on overall production to offset an oversupplied market. That move pulled crude oil above $50 per barrel last year, but also improved the economics in expensive areas like U.S. shale and U.S. oil production has increased in response.
On the refinery side, federal data show the West Coast market is tight with gasoline inventory levels dropping. AAA in a market report said the West Coast remains the most expensive market in the country because of lingering maintenance issues at area refineries. Drivers in California are paying the most for gas in the Lower 48 at $2.94 per gallon.
The Great Lakes region, meanwhile, maintains its claim to the most volatile market in the country, with Indiana posting a weekly decline in gas prices at 10 cents per gallon and Ohio posting a 7 cent increase per gallon.
"Regional pump prices will likely remain volatile in the coming weeks as refiners begin to make the switch from winter-blend to summer-blend gasoline," AAA reported.
The summer blend of gasoline is more expensive to make because more environmental steps are necessary to counter higher evaporation and emissions during warm summer months.
A federal report form early February predicted a national average price of $2.27 per gallon for this month and $2.33 for March. For the year, the government expects a national average of $2.39 per gallon.