Why are gas prices rising so fast this spring?
A two-month stretch of rising gas prices appears to have relented slightly in the central San Joaquin Valley and California, as the average price for regular unleaded gasoline on Monday morning was down slightly from a week ago.
In Fresno, the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded was $4.07, down a penny from last week’s average of $4.08, according to data from AAA Gas Prices. Prices were also one cent lower in the Hanford-Corcoran, Madera/Chowchilla and Merced markets.
Jeannette Casselano, a spokesperson for AAA, said it may be too soon to celebrate lower prices over the long term. “There are many factors that could quickly push up prices in the coming weeks, including the impact of Chinese tariffs, weather, a major draw in gasoline stock levels, a spike in demand or the volume of Memorial Day weekend travel,” she said Monday. “Pump price movements this week will indicate if motorists will continue to see cheaper gas prices or if this was just a one-week fad.”
In the Visalia/Tulare/Porterville market, AAA Gas Prices reported that Monday’s average price was $4.08, about a penny higher than a week ago.
The statewide average for regular unleaded was reported at $2.86, three cents lower than the May 6 average. Nationally, the U.S. average was $2.86, also three cents lower than a week ago.
GasBuddy, a mobile app that allows users to report prices at gasoline stations in their communities in real time, showed that the highest price in the Fresno area for regular unleaded was $4.49 per gallon at a Chevron station at Clinton and Blythe avenues in west-central Fresno. Among the lowest prices was $3.69 per gallon at an Arco station at Cherry and Jensen avenues in south Fresno, and $3.75 per gallon at a FasTrip convenience store near Hughes and Dakota avenues in central Fresno.
The Costco membership store on Blackstone Avenue north of Herndon also had its regular unleaded priced at $3.75, according to GasBuddy, while another Costco on West Shaw Avenue was listed at $3.73 per gallon.
“Relief at the pump has indeed begun across the country with a majority of states seeing average prices decline versus a week ago, giving solid evidence the worst is behind us,” GasBuddy.com head petroleum analyst Patrick DeHaan wrote in his consumer outlook blog on Monday. “However, the potential lightning rod of a U.S./China trade deal is perhaps the only prospect that could bring a return to higher prices.”
DeHaan said he believes a trade deal could potentially send gasoline prices higher. “For most Americans, I think we’ll slowly all join in on the falling prices” he wrote, “and by June, the national average may stand 5-20 cents lower than today, provided there’s no trade deal with the U.S. and China.”
AAA Gas Prices noted that the West Coast could see fuel prices remain volatile as gasoline stocks shrink, including the potential for prices to rise from ongoing refinery maintenance that nudged prices in California above $4 in the past couple of weeks.
DeHaan reported that crude oil prices lurched upward by more than $1 per barrel early Monday after news that four ships, including a pair of oil tankers from Saudi Arabia, were damaged in what officials in the Persian Gulf region called a “sabotage” attack off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.
The sabotage reports represent an increased risk for shippers in a region vital to energy supplies around the world even as tensions increase between the United States and Iran over the deterioration of a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the 2015 agreement and restored sanctions that have affected Iran’s economy. More recently, the Trump administration ended waivers of sanctions that allowed countries to continue to purchase oil from Iran.