As gasoline prices edge stubbornly upward, approaching the dreaded $3-a-gallon range in some markets, experts urge consumers not to panic.
“This summer at the pump, I’m seeing upper $2-a-gallon range most of the time,” said Patrick DeHaan, a senior analyst with online gas price tracker Gas Buddy. “Two-seventy-five to $2.99 a gallon. I think if prices hit $3 in Dayton, it would be temporary.”
Gas prices are at their highest point since mid-2015, however, and the rise is starting to hurt consumer confidence. U.S. consumer sentiment eased last week from a 17-year high as Americans reacted to higher gas prices, Bloomberg news reported.
DeHaan expects prices will continue to go up, and possibly higher than last summer, but he said the fluctuation should be taken in perspective.
“You’re talking prices being closer to the low-price era of 2016 and 2017 than you are talking about the high-price era … in 2011 through 2014,” he said.
Gas prices reached $3.50 a gallon in Ohio and were even higher elsewhere during those years, DeHaan recalled. He doesn’t see a repeat of that any time soon.
“We’re going to be closer to $2.50 than we will be to $3.50,” he said.
A number of factors drive gas pricing, including supply. It’s too soon to tell if an explosion at a Wisconsin oil refinery will impact prices, though DeHaan said the refinery is relatively small, producing only about 50,000 barrels a day.
Dayton’s prices moved up earlier this week, with the average settling at about $2.80, according to GasBuddy.com.
DeHaan thinks it will be more difficult to reach the $3-a-gallon level in Ohio than in surrounding states, where taxes may be higher.
“Ohio has some of the lower gas prices in the Great Lakes (region),” he said. “I would say the odds of Ohio hitting $3 this summer are still relatively low.”
An OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) meeting is set for June where members may adjust production quotas.
The global market does need more crude oil, DeHaan said. “That’s part of the reason oil prices are knocking on $70 (per barrel).”
The per-barrel price of West Texas Intermediate crude, a benchmark in oil pricing, early Friday was $67.90.
Meanwhile, the Husky Energy refinery in Superior, Wisc. was rattled Thursday with explosions. An initial fire was contained but a second explosion from an asphalt tank reignited a massive fire.
The fire injured at least 11 people, forcing the evacuation of area homes, schools and a hospital, and sent out a plume of smoke that was seen TV screens and digital devices around the world. Authorities said the fire had been extinguished by Thursday evening.
Prices tend to rise at this time of year, said energy analyst Chris Edmonds with the Atlanta offices of Enerecap Partners.
“Consumers are willing to pay,” Edmonds told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The economy is good and the consumers are traveling more.”
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