AAA reports largest increase in gasoline prices in three years

The 44-cent jump in gasoline prices over the past four weeks was the largest in well over three years, according to AAA.

“The 44-cent month-over-month increase is the most dramatic since June 2009. The largest increase on record was August 5-September 4, 2005 when prices jumped 75 cents largely because of Hurricane Katrina,” the travelers’ services group said in its weekly price analysis.

Here’s more from AAA:

The national average has increased for 33 consecutive days, rising 46 cents or nearly 14 percent during this stretch. This is the longest streak since the price increased 44 cents over 44 days March 22-May 5, 2011. This year’s run-up is not only larger and faster than recent years but is beginning earlier. The national average in 2011 increased by just seven cents during the same 33 day period and in 2012 it increased by 18 cents.

Average nationwide prices were $3.75 per gallon Tuesday, the highest on record for the calendar day.

That’s well below record levels reached in the summer of 2008. But prices are high enough to make the pump costs, which played a big role in election-season attacks, reemerge as a political weapon for Republicans.

Republicans on Wednesday used rising gasoline prices to reiterate calls for White House approval of the Keystone XL pipeline that would bring oil from Canadian oil sands projects to Gulf Coast refineries.

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“Increased global competition for oil supplies and political tensions in the Middle East are contributing to high gas prices as uncertainty swells over future supplies. To help insulate ourselves from overseas supply disruptions and future gas price spikes, America must look to expand energy production here at home and increase imports from our North American allies,” Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee said in a statement.

Critics of the proposed pipeline say it will do nothing to lower gasoline prices, which are tethered to crude oil prices set on global markets.

AAA, for its part, said this year’s earlier-than-usual rise in prices is related in part to refinery maintenance.

“One reason for the earlier price increase is the trend of U.S. refineries performing seasonal maintenance and making the switch-over to summer blend gasoline production earlier in the year. This earlier schedule is the choice of refiners and has not come in response to any change to the deadline to complete the transition to summer-blend fuels, which are required in many parts of the country and more expensive to produce,” the group said.

“Regional supplies can decrease when refineries go offline and subsequently markets are more sensitive during the changeover period to refinery disruptions that would further squeeze supply, as we have seen this year,” AAA said.

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