Holiday Driving Demand Causes Temporary Increase at the Pump

Heading into the final week of the year, the national average price for a gallon of gasoline is $2.44, an increase of two cents on the week. As more drivers hit the road for the holidays, the increase in driving demand is likely the cause for increases in some states. Despite the incremental jump, motorists in 33 states are paying less on the week – as much as nine cents. Today’s average is about 26 cents per gallon higher than a year ago. The cheapest gas can be found in Alabama ($2.17), while Hawaii ($3.29) sells the most expensive.

“The majority of motorists have seen savings at the pump this month. The national gas price average is over five cents cheaper than the beginning of December,” said Jeanette Casselano, AAA spokesperson.

Quick Stats

  • The top ten markets with the largest weekly changes are: Michigan (+17 cents), Ohio (+15 cents), Indiana (+12 cents), Illinois (+11 cents), Kentucky (+9 cents), Alaska (-9 cents), Wisconsin (+7 cents), Missouri (+5 cents), North Dakota (-4 cents) and West Virginia (+4 cents).
  • The nation’s top ten least expensive markets are: Alabama ($2.17), Texas ($2.17), Mississippi ($2.18), Arkansas ($2.18), Oklahoma ($2.19), South Carolina ($2.20), Missouri ($2.20), Louisiana ($2.22), Kansas ($2.22) and Tennessee ($2.23).

West Coast

Drivers in the West Coast region are paying some of the highest prices at the pump after the holiday weekend. The six states in the region that are most expensive are: Hawaii ($3.29), Alaska ($3.10), California ($3.08), Washington ($2.92), Oregon ($2.78) and Nevada ($2.65). As prices continue to drop on the week, Alaska saw the largest decline (-9), while Washington, Oregon and Nevada each dropped a penny and Hawaii and California saw no change.

According to the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) latest report for the region, gasoline inventories hit a new milestone: a 10-month high at 31 million bbl. The figure is 2.6 million bbl above the inventory level at this time last year.

Great Lakes and Central

Across the Great Lakes and Central regions, gas prices are as cheap as $2.20 in Missouri and as expensive as $2.60 in Michigan. On the week, gas prices continue to decrease for the majority of states in the Central Region with North Dakota (-4 cents), Kansas (-2 cents) and South Dakota (-2 cents) seeing the largest drops at the pump. Conversely, motorists in Michigan (+17 cents), Ohio (+15 cents), Indiana (+12 cents), Illinois (+11 cents), Kentucky (+9 cents), Wisconsin (+7 cents) and Missouri (+5 cents) saw some of the highest weekly increases. Throughout the year, these regions have been some of the most volatile – seeing prices take large jumps and declines from week to week.

Gasoline inventories had a small decline of 26,000 bbl. At 47.8 million bbl, inventories are at a 3.3 million bbl deficit compared to this time last year.

South and Southeast

On the week, Florida saw the largest decrease (-2 cents) in the region. Alabama ($2.17) takes the Nation’s top spot for the cheapest gas price average. Six states in the region join Alabama on this week’s top 10 list of states with the least expensive gas price averages: Texas ($2.17), Mississippi ($2.18), Arkansas ($2.18), Oklahoma ($2.20), South Carolina ($2.20) and Louisiana ($2.22).

While gas prices are more expensive nationally compared to last year, Florida motorists are only seeing a three-cent difference, which is the smallest year-over-year difference in the region and the country.

With an addition of 2.4 million bbl, gasoline inventories grew for a third straight week. At 84 million bbl in total, this is the largest total inventory in the region since late January.

Mid-Atlantic and Northeast

Gas prices range from a low of $2.23 in Tennessee to high of $2.69 in Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. With a 12 cent price difference, Delaware saw the largest monthly decline in gas prices in the region.

According to the latest EIA report, gasoline inventories in the region increased by 1.2 million bbl on the week despite an increase in driving demand.

Rockies

Motorist in Montana ($2.58) and Idaho ($2.54) are paying the most to fill up at the pump of any states in the region. Idaho, Colorado, Utah and Montana saw the largest drops (-3 cents) at the pump for the region.

Comparing prices to one year ago, three states land on the top 10 year-over-year largest increase list: Montana (+36 cents), Wyoming (+28 cents) and Idaho (+26 cents).

Gasoline inventories in the region increased for a fourth straight week, albeit a small bulid of 260,000 bbl.

Oil market dynamics

At the close of Friday’s formal trading session on the NYMEX, WTI was up 11 cents to settle at $58.47. The price of oil took a slight hit last week after EIA’s weekly report revealed another record for U.S. crude production, which stands at 9.789 million b/d. Moreover, according to Baker Hughes, Inc., the U.S. active oil rig count remained the same as it did last week, holding steady at 747.

In addition, crude oil inventories declined by 6.5 million bbl, driven mostly by high crude processing rates at refineries across the country. Gross crude inputs for this month have been running consistently above 17 million b/d, which has never happened before 2017. As the year draws to a close, market observers will watch this week’s data from EIA to see if high gasoline demand eats away at crude inventories, or if high levels of domestic crude production will build inventories despite high gasoline demand.

Motorists can find current gas prices along their route with the free AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. The app can also be used to map a route, find discounts, book a hotel and access AAA roadside assistance. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile.

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