AAA: Thanksgiving gas prices leveling out after a “topsy-turvy year”

Posted at 12:27 PM, Nov 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-26 14:27:57-05

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho families heading over the river and through the woods for a Thanksgiving celebration are in for some good news when they fuel up on the way out of town –- the Idaho AAA says gas prices are expected to be about the same as they were last year, if not slightly cheaper.

The current average price in the Gem State is $2.97 -- which is eight cents more than a month ago, but the same price that Idahoans paid last year. Today’s national average is $2.59, which is two cents less than a month ago, and three cents more than a year ago.

Last year, Idaho’s per-gallon pump prices averaged $2.99, while the national was about forty cents less. Back in 2012, Idaho’s prices were in the $3.45 range, while the national price was only two cents less.

“It’s been a topsy-turvy year at the pump,” says AAA Idaho Public Affairs Director Matthew Conde. “First, gas prices dropped every day from Memorial Day through the first part of October, which is extremely unusual. Then, they increased heading into the fall, as demand for fuel remained high and refineries slowed down production to complete seasonal maintenance. But for the moment, it looks like things are starting to level out.”

The West Texas Intermediate benchmark for crude oil is currently trading near $58 per barrel, about two dollars more than a month ago and six dollars more than a year ago. Crude oil prices contribute fifty to sixty percent of the price of finished gasoline.

In total, 55.3 million Americans will travel fifty miles or more from home for Thanksgiving this year, with 296,000 Idahoans among them. “That’s the most since 2005, and the eleventh straight year of travel volume growth. About ninety percent, or 263,000 Idahoans, will opt to drive,” Conde pointed out.

Peak traffic congestion is expected to occur on Tuesday morning, Tuesday afternoon, and Wednesday morning, as work commuters share the road with travelers. Drivers are encouraged to avoid these busy travel times if possible.

“Temperatures are starting to drop across the Gem State, so if you’re heading into rural areas and higher elevations, please be prepared with a complete emergency kit,” Conde said. “Extra food, water and clothing, a set of jumper cables, some basic tools, a first aid kit, and a flashlight with extra batteries are good things to take with you, even for shorter trips. Drivers should also make sure that all tires, including the spare tire, are properly inflated.”

AAA also encourages drivers to check road and weather conditions before they travel. With snow and freezing temperatures expected in many parts of the state, fallen tree limbs and potholes could appear in the roadway without warning. Motorists should drive at an appropriate speed for the situations they encounter.

The busiest day at most airports across the country will be Wednesday. The calmest day to fly will be Thanksgiving itself, but Sunday will be another busy day as people head home.

“Long lines and big crowds make it a good idea to head for the airport a little sooner than usual, but that doesn’t mean you’ll have to twiddle your thumbs once you arrive,” Conde said. “Most airports have great dining options and free art exhibits, and some even have spas. Take advantage of the extra time you have to de-stress –- that’s one of the rewards of being prepared.”

(photo courtesy: Idaho Transportation Dept.)