Average Up 13 Percent in Last Month
It's normal for gas prices to increase as winter turns to spring, but this year the rise in prices has been much earlier and much more intense than usual. AAA reports the average gas price has risen for more than 30 consecutive days dating back to January, and is now at an all-time February high of $3.74 a gallon.
In Texas, the average rose 21 cents in the past week alone to $3.64 a gallon. "The price is rising ahead of when we would normally see a jump due to the change of blends and the increase in demand for the summer driving season," says Shawn Martini with the Consumer Energy Alliance. And he thinks there is likely more to come. "Most of the energy analysts are predicting that 2013 is probably going to be a record year for prices at the pump," he says.
So what is behind the sudden, intense rise in gas prices since the start of this year? Martini blames it on a combination of factors that he calls a "perfect storm." "Activity in the global oil markets...the inability to efficiently transfer both crude oil and gasoline via pipeline around the country causing some regional shortages...a couple of refineries in the northeast have been taken offline for maintenance." Nevertheless, he says there are steps that can be taken. "Doing things like approving the Keystone Pipeline will help to transport crude supplies to the Gulf Coast region and reduce some of the transportation issues."
The Keystone XL project is still being held up for final approval by the federal government. In the meantime, there doesn’t appear to be any short-term fix for drivers struggling to fill their tanks. One positive factor is that the price of crude oil has remained relatively stable. As of late Friday, it was just above $93 a barrel. AAA predicts prices will level off in the next couple of months, but whether they will return to "pre-surge" levels anytime soon remains to be seen.
Get the latest Houston gas prices here.