Oregon gas prices up for Memorial day

Oregon average is more expensive than in 2011 but not as high as last year

By Oregon — American Automobile Association

“Memorial Day weekend is almost here and gas prices in Oregon will likely be less expensive than last year but more expensive than in 2011. The national average for regular unleaded adds seven cents this week to $3.65, which is the largest weekly spike since February. The Oregon average gains a nickel to $3.98. The rate of increase has slowed down in Oregon since last week when the statewide average shot up a quarter.” AAA Oregon/Idaho Public Affairs Director Marie Dodds says, “Tight regional supplies and refinery maintenance – both planned and unplanned – are the reason for the dramatically higher pump prices in the Midwest and West Coast. Higher crude prices are also putting upward pressure on gasoline prices across the country.”

With the upcoming Memorial Day holiday marking the unofficial start to summer, the national average continues to cling to a small year-over-year discount. The national average on the previous two Memorial Days were $3.64 (May 28, 2012) and $3.79 (May 30, 2011). In Oregon, the average on Memorial Day 2012 was $4.25 and $3.89 on Memorial Day 2011. Currently, Oregon drivers are paying less than they were last year, but more than in 2011.

Drivers in all twelve Midwestern states and Oklahoma are paying at least a dime per gallon more than on this date in 2012. In particular, the average price paid by drivers in Minnesota and North Dakota has shot up by more than 60 cents in the last two weeks, propelling both state averages to new all-time highs. The previous record in both states was in July 2008; at the same time the national average soared to what is still a record of $4.11 per gallon. While not yet at record highs, three states (Iowa, Neb. and Okla.) have seen prices shoot up more than 50 cents in two weeks and are within a dime of their respective all-time highest pump prices. This week’s storms in the Midwest also have the potential to cause additional refinery issues in this region.

Here on the West Coast, tight supplies and refinery issues in California and Washington sent wholesale prices soaring in late April to mid-May, resulting in higher pump prices for drivers. Dodds adds, “This week, spot prices in the Pacific Northwest show some weakness, but we’re not out of the woods yet as any additional issues could cause prices to spike again.”

While the average American driver has enjoyed a less expensive year-over-year pump price for 80 consecutive days, the savings have narrowed to just three-and-a-half cents per gallon, down substantially from the peak year-to-date discount of 39 cents on April 18. With the national average rising steadily, compared to a year ago when prices were tumbling, it is likely that the average will once again rise above year-ago levels in the coming days and may be more expensive than last year for the approaching Memorial Day holiday weekend.

The Oregon average has now set a new peak price for the year, eclipsing the previous peak 2013 price to date of $3.80 a gallon on March 13. The national average is currently about 14 cents below the peak 2013 price to date of $3.79 on February 27. In 2012, the national average for regular unleaded peaked at $3.94 on April 5 and 6, and the Oregon average peaked at $4.27 on June 1. In 2011, the national average peaked at $3.98 on May 5 and the Oregon average peaked at $3.97 on May 6.

While much of the focus has been on volatile regional gasoline markets, higher crude oil prices are also making it more expensive for drivers to fill up. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil prices have continued to drift higher in recent weeks. At the close of Monday’s formal trading on the NYMEX, WTI settled up 69 cents at $96.71 per barrel, up from about $95 a week ago. This is the highest settlement price for WTI in more than 6 weeks. WTI continues to trade around $96 today. Crude prices are up about eight percent in the last month.

This week nine states have regular unleaded at or above $4 a gallon, up from three states last week. For the 15th consecutive week, there are no states below $3 a gallon. For the second consecutive week, Oregon is in the top ten most expensive states, but drops from fifth to 10th place. Washington stays in the top ten for the second week in a row, falling from sixth to ninth. Hawaii has the most expensive gas in the country for the 31st consecutive week at $4.37, followed by Minnesota at $4.27, North Dakota at $4.23, Alaska at $4.07, and Nebraska at $4.06. California is seventh at $4.05 (same as last week and down from third last week). Washington is ninth down from sixth last week at $4.00 (up seven cents). Oregon is 10th at $3.98 (down from fifth last week). Idaho is 25th for the second week in a row at $3.63 (up six cents). For the fifth week in a row, South Carolina has the cheapest gas in the nation at $3.24 a gallon (same as last week).

Diesel prices are up slightly. The national average gains a penny to $3.89. Oregon’s diesel average also adds a penny to $4.00. The Oregon average was last at the $4 mark in mid-April. Diesel is at or above $4 a gallon in 14 states (including the District of Columbia), up from 12 last week. Hawaii is most expensive at $4.92, followed by Alaska at $4.33, New York at $4.18, Connecticut at $4.17, and Washington at $4.11 (up three cents and up from seventh last week). Oregon is 13th for the second consecutive week. Idaho is 14th up from 16th last week at $4.00 (up two cents). A year ago, the national average for diesel was $4.00 and Oregon’s was $4.35.

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