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AAA: Idaho and U.S. gas price gap narrows

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Posted at 3:26 PM, Mar 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-09 17:26:23-05

The U.S. average pump price jumped six cents this past week, the largest one-week increase since the beginning of the year -- and a likely harbinger of what’s ahead as refineries prep for summer production, said AAA Idaho spokesman Dave Carlson.

AAA says the price differential between U.S. and Idaho prices, that had been closer to 20 cents a gallon earlier this year, has dissipated in the past a week or two.

Idaho’s average price today is $1.86, compared to $1.82 for the U.S. The four-cent gap is the smallest of the year. 

A year ago, Idahoans were paying $2.27 a gallon. The U.S. mark was at $2.45 a year ago, Carlson said.

The U.S. average price rose nine cents in the past month, compared to an eight-cent drop in Idaho’s average pump price, accounting for the move. Idaho’s $2.09 average price in January was 17 cents higher than the U.S. average of $1.92. In February, Idaho’s average price was $1.92, compared to $1.73 for the rest of the country, Carlson added,

“Pump prices in Idaho typically trail the market fundamentals elsewhere, a result of this state’s isolation from competitive influences,” he said. “We’re also seeing more balanced pricing in communities across Idaho, today.”  

In advance of the busy summer driving season, refineries typically undergo scheduled maintenance during the first two quarters of the year. Experts say this year’s spring turnaround has been characterized by lower-than-expected prices, which has prompted a number of refineries to adjust their maintenance schedules and/or cut production in preparation for the seasonal switchover to summer-blend gasoline.

AAA’s earlier estimate that annual pump prices should remain in the $2.25 to $2.50 range for the year is still intact, Carlson said, suggesting lower gas prices this year compared to last. Idaho’s average price in 2015 was $2.51. The U.S. average price in 2015 was $2.40.

On Tuesday, Idaho pump prices were: Boise, $1.87; Coeur d’Alene, $1.80; Idaho Falls, $1.80; Lewiston, $1.89; Nampa, $1.85; Pocatello, $1.86; and Twin Falls, $1.81.