After Steady Climb, Gas Prices Coming Back Down

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The national and Oregon averages are backing away from their year-to-date highs, according to AAA.

The national average loses three cents to $2.42 a gallon this week, while Oregon’s average also falls three cents to $2.85. In Hermiston, the price for a gallon of gas is between $2.33 and $2.39. The national average has fallen for 10 straight days, while Oregon’s average has fallen nine of the past 10 days and the past seven days straight.

“The West Coast is still recovering from localized refinery issues and remains the nation’s most expensive region for retail gasoline,” said AAA Oregon/Idaho Public Affairs Director Marie Dodds. “California continues to have the most expensive pump prices in the nation at $3.35 a gallon, followed by Hawaii at $3.14, Alaska at $2.92, Nevada at $2.87 and Oregon at $2.85 as the nation’s the top five most expensive markets.”

The national and Oregon averages both reached their year-to-date highs on March 7. The national average rose for 40 days in a row, peaking at $2.46 a gallon. The Oregon average rose for 33 days straight, peaking at $2.89 a gallon. West Coast markets have seen particularly dramatic run-ups over the last several weeks due to a number of supply issues. An explosion last month at ExxonMobil’s refinery in Torrance, Calif. has kept that facility running at severely reduced rates. Production at Tesoro’s refinery in Martinez, Calif. remained limited as it aimed to restart after recent planned maintenance.

Gas prices may continue to drop in the near future due to a steep decline in the cost of crude oil. Crude oil prices declined by more than 10 percent last week and began this week at six-year lows due to abundant supplies, a stronger U.S. dollar, and the possibility of even more oil entering the market soon. A stronger dollar can be bad for oil prices because oil is traded in U.S. dollars, and when the dollar strengthens, oil becomes more expensive for foreign buyers. Every $10 per barrel decline in the cost of crude oil can send gas prices down by nearly 25 cents per gallon.

The national average tends to moves higher this time of year because refineries conduct planned maintenance, which can limit fuel production. Refineries are also beginning to transition to summer-blend fuel in advance of the May 1 deadline. As part of this process, refineries draw down current inventories of winter-blend fuel, which can further constrain supplies. However, gas prices should remain relatively cheap because crude oil costs are much lower than recent years and U.S. inventories have risen for nine straight weeks, which should keep downward pressure on retail gasoline markets.

Month-over-month comparisons continue to show that the majority of drivers (45 states and Washington, D.C.) are paying more at the pump. Oregon is one of 42 states and Washington D.C. where the average price for retail gasoline has climbed by more than a dime per gallon.

Diesel prices are also edging lower. The national average slips two cents to $2.90 a gallon. Oregon’s average also falls two cents to $2.93. Diesel is at or above $4 a gallon in just one state, same as last week. Hawaii is most expensive at $4.51.