Energy Economy

Latest Gas Prices Notch Biggest 2019 Increase

The price for a gallon of regular gasoline rose by more than six cents last week to post a national average price of $2.39 a gallon. The weekly increase is the largest for the year so far.

The nation’s refineries are about to begin the annual springtime scheduled maintenance period, when they switch over to producing summer-grade fuel and take the opportunity to perform semiannual maintenance. This period typically runs through April and “officially” ends just before the Memorial Day holiday.

Patrick DeHaan, GasBuddy’s head of petroleum analysis, commented: “Gasoline prices saw their biggest weekly jump of 2019 with the national average now at its highest point since mid-December as oil prices continue to advance, while such jumps are in line with expectations, that doesn’t make them any easier to digest. Unfortunately, we’re likely in store for a continued march higher into March and even April as seasonal trends kick into high gear, but there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Average gas prices should remain lower than their year-ago levels for now and the annual spring surge we see at gas pumps will likely not be as bad as we’ve seen in years past.”

The most common pump price for a gallon of regular gasoline is $2.29, up from $2.19 a week ago. The number of service stations selling gas for less than $2.00 a gallon dropped from more than 11,000 to just 4,246, according to GasBuddy. No state posted an average price below $2.00 a gallon last week. At the beginning of the year, a dozen states could make that claim.

States with the lowest average prices are Mississippi and Louisiana (both at $2.09), followed by Alabama ($2.12). The nation’s highest prices can be found in California ($3.28), Hawaii ($3.20) and Washington ($2.86).

West Texas Intermediate crude oil for April delivery traded down about 3.2% in the early afternoon Monday, at $55.39, while Brent for April delivery traded at $64.94, down about 3.3%. The price differential (spread) between front-month WTI and Brent crude is now around $9.55 a barrel, up about 60 cents over the past several weeks.