Retail gasoline prices have been stable over the last few days, though a busy maintenance season at the nation's refineries could create some supply-side pressures and support higher prices at the pump. File photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
Jan. 30 (UPI) -- U.S. gasoline prices remained stable over the weekend, though upcoming refinery maintenance is widely expected to lead to an increase over the coming weeks and months.
Motor club AAA listed a national average retail price of $3.50 for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline on Monday, the same price as Friday, but 33 cents higher per gallon than one month ago.
Consumer-level prices are largely a reflection of global crude oil prices and those prices are on the decline. The price for Brent crude oil, the global benchmark for the price of oil, is down around 3% from week-ago levels and were trending sharply lower at the start of the trading day on Monday.
But a busy period of scheduled refinery maintenance will limit what's available in terms of refined petroleum products. Refinery activity is already a bit sluggish. The Energy Department reported that refineries were operating at 86% of their peak capacity during the seven-day period ending Jan. 20, compared with 95.5% over the week ending Dec. 2.
Refiners later this spring, meanwhile, need to start making a summer-blend of gasoline, which is more expensive to make because of the additional processing steps needed to keep it from evaporating during warmer months.
All that should pass down to the consumer level by way of higher prices at the pump. Patrick DeHaan, the senior petroleum analyst at Chicago-based GasBuddy, told UPI last week that the only question is when, not if, the price at the pump hits $4 per gallon.
That, however, would still be a relief from the $5 high reached last year. The federal government expects an average of $3.32 per gallon this year, compared with $3.97 for 2022.