U.S. gas prices holding steady as summer fades

Demand pressure ahead of next week's solar eclipse could skew the national average price higher as tourists flock to the path of totality.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |   Aug. 15, 2017 at 5:48 AM
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Aug. 15 (UPI) -- U.S. retail gasoline prices are holding relatively stable, with analysts offering competing perspectives on the trend ahead as the demand-heavy summer wanes.

Motor club AAA reports a national average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline at $2.35, relatively unchanged from last week, but more than 9 cents higher than one month ago.

By region, the West Coast remains the most expensive market in the country. California is still holding just below $3 per gallon, though it still has the highest state average for the Lower 48. AAA in its weekly retail market report said gasoline inventories remain low for the region and demand pressures are on pace to increase because the path of totality for Monday's eclipse runs through several West Coast states.

That tourist draw on gasoline comes about a month before the official end to the summer travel season and AAA spokesperson Jeanette Casselano said demand pressures should increase through September.

"As we get closer to Labor Day and demand and production rates grow, drivers will likely see some of the highest prices at the pump this year," she said in a statement.

The Great Lakes states, meanwhile, were the most volatile in the country. Most states posted an increase, though Indiana, Michigan and Ohio each saw big spikes in gasoline prices. The same three states were on last week's list of those with the largest declines. Regional gasoline supplies are low by relative standards, despite an influx of gasoline last week.

Total U.S. gasoline inventories showed an increase last week, which contributed to the holding pattern for retail prices. Last week saw U.S. exploration and production activity accelerate, which would push markets lower and Monday saw steep declines in crude oil prices because of lingering supply-side strains.

According to price-reporting company GasBuddy, a series of offsetting factors suggests some relief is in sight.

"Gasoline prices will be in a bit of a holding pattern in the week ahead, with declines likely to be more commonplace than increases as gas pumps have largely caught up to the current price of crude oil," an emailed report read.

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