July 31, 2017 - Today’s national average price of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline is $2.32. The national average is at its highest price since June 15 and has now increased for 12 of the last 15 days. Pump prices in 47 states and Washington D.C. moved higher on the week, resulting from strong demand, rising exports and declining U.S. crude oil inventory levels.
“As summer moves forward, the days of dropping summer gas prices appear to be behind us for now,” said Jeanette Casselano, AAA Spokesperson. “U.S. crude inventories are moving in the opposite direction of demand – a perfect storm for continued price increases heading into August.”
West Coast gas prices continue to be the highest in the country, with six states in the region topping the list of most expensive U.S. markets: Hawaii ($3.05), California ($2.94), Washington ($2.81), Alaska ($2.78), Oregon ($2.66) and Nevada ($2.62).
Regional prices remained stable on the week, with the exception of California. Drivers saw prices move 2 cents higher mostly due to an equipment breakdown at Phillips 66’s Wilmington, CA, refinery and ongoing planned maintenance at Tesoro’s Golden Eagle Refinery in Martinez, CA. The latest Energy Information Administration (EIA) report shows West Coast gasoline inventories jumped 200,000 bbl, to 27.1 million bbl. This is an impressive recovery after regional stocks saw the largest one-week drop in nearly 3 years the previous week.
Gas prices in the Rockies are among the most stable in the nation, with prices fluctuating by only a few cents on the week. Drivers in Utah (-10 cents) and Idaho (-7 cents) are enjoying the largest monthly declines at the pump. The declines are likely the result of steady inventory and demand.
Great Lakes and Central States
Prices across these regions have seen significant movement over the past month. States in the region top the list of largest monthly increases: Indiana (+26 cents), Ohio (+20 cents), Michigan (+17 cents) and Kentucky (+15 cents).
The EIA’s latest report shows Midwest gasoline inventories dropped by 300,000 bbl, to 32 million bbl last week. Ohio (+10 cents), Michigan (+9 cents), Indiana (+9 cents), Illinois (+6 cents) and Kansas (+6 cents) all topped the list of largest weekly increases. Low inventory and high demand will likely result in continued increases over the coming weeks.
South and Southeast
Even as prices rise across the nation, these regions are still home to some of the lowest prices in the country. Notable states on the list of cheapest markets include: Alabama ($2.03), Mississippi ($2.03) and Texas ($2.10).
According to the EIA’s latest weekly report, 4.5 million bbl of the nationwide drawdown of crude oil came from the South and Southeast region. That weekly drop pulled regional crude inventories below the 250-million-bbl mark, after reaching 260 million bbl in June.
Regional gasoline production moved above the 3 million b/d mark last week, which is well ahead of the five-year average. The increase comes despite ongoing planned and unplanned refinery maintenance across the region, including facilities in Lake Charles, LA, as well as Texas City and Galveston, TX. Refinery maintenance, dropping inventory and booming demand will likely continue to push gas prices higher over the next few weeks.
Mid-Atlantic and Northeast
Gas prices across the region continue to join the pack of most expensive states in the country, with Washington, D.C. ($2.55) and Pennsylvania ($2.52) leading the way.
Gasoline stocks in the region decreased by 2.1 million bbl last week, according to the latest EIA report. That decline puts total supplies on hand at 62.2 million bbl, which is more than 10 million bbl lower than levels this time last year. Tighter supplies and growing demand have put pressure on gas prices, leading to increases throughout the region.
Oil Market Dynamics
The price per barrel of crude continues to push higher, with West Texas Intermediate approaching the $50 line on Monday after increasing 67 cents to hit $49.71 on Friday. The rally comes amid news that OPEC and non-OPEC nations will meet in Abu Dhabi on August 7 & 8. Their discussion will focus on why some countries participating in the production cut agreement, which is in place until the end of March 2018, are failing to meet their agreed targets. Compliance has become a major issue for the agreement, as rising production from OPEC and non-OPEC member countries has prevented the agreement from having a larger impact on rebalancing the global market. Moreover, at a meeting last Monday, Saudi Arabia stated its plans to limit crude exports to 6.6 million barrels per day in August, about 1 million bpd below the level last year. Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates also agreed to cut exports, addressing rising fears in the market that growth in production and exports from member countries may be undercutting the cartel’s efforts to restrict supplies and raise prices in the global market.
EIA reported a 7.2 million barrel drop in U.S. crude inventories for the week ending on July 21 – a much higher number than expected. However, according to Baker Hughes, Inc.’s latest rig count, the U.S. added 2 oil rigs, bringing the record-high total to 766. All of the news has given investors mixed signals on where the market is heading, putting greater pressure on OPEC to enhance compliance and reduce exports. The needle may move in favor of higher crude prices this week, which will contribute to rising gas prices. If crude prices continue to push upward, drivers are likely to see it reflected at the pump.
Motorists can find current gas prices along their route with the free AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad, and Android. The app can also be used to map a route, find discounts, book a hotel, and access AAA roadside assistance. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile.