Gasoline prices have been on the rise for the last month or so, and a petroleum expert warns against expecting them to level off anytime soon.
The average price of regular unleaded gas in Omaha is up 8 cents in the last week and 23 cents in the last month, according to AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report. Omaha’s average price Tuesday was $3.30 a gallon, although a number of gas stations in the Omaha area were selling regular unleaded for $3.179 per gallon, and some were at $3.159, Gasbuddy.com reported.
“We’re just starting to see the tip of the iceberg now,’’ said Patrick DeHaan, a senior petroleum analyst at Gasbuddy.com, referring to price increases.
A number of factors play into a gallon of regular unleaded’s rise this time each year, he said.
Among those driving forces are partial shutdowns for regular maintenance at the 134 U.S. refineries; the annual production switch from winter blend fuels to summer blends, which are more expensive to produce; the rising price of a barrel of oil; and political unrest in or near oil-producing regions, such as Syria, Sudan and Venezuela, he said.
By mid-April, DeHaan said, prices across the country could be up 30 to 45 cents per gallon, with Omaha’s average price per gallon at $3.75 to $3.85.
A major player in the price increase has been oil prices. Six weeks ago, oil was going for $91 a barrel, DeHaan said. Tuesday, it was trading at $103 per barrel.
Demand probably has not been a factor, he said. More drivers will be out by the end of May, he said, creating more of a demand for fuel from the almost 300 million vehicles in use in the United States.
The status of the Flint Hills Pine Bend Refinery in Rosemount, Minn., will impact Nebraska and Iowa gas prices down the road, DeHaan said. Flint Hills, which serves the Midwest, will partially shut down for 50 days of maintenance beginning in early April. The refinery normally produces 320,000 gallons of fuel per day when fully operational, DeHaan said.
According to AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report:
>> The nationwide average price for a gallon of regular unleaded Tuesday was $3.42, up from $3.36 a week ago, $3.28 from a month ago and $3.77 from a year ago.
>> Nebraska’s average Tuesday was $3.40, compared with $3.32 last week, $3.20 last month and $3.75 last year.
>> Iowa’s average Tuesday was $3.41, compared with $3.31 a week ago, $3.22 a month ago and $3.75 a year ago.