The American Automobile Association forecasts the national gas price average this spring will be as high as $2.70 per gallon -- and experts say if the historical pattern repeats itself, Idaho gas prices could approach $2.85 per gallon or more.
“There’s a growing thirst for oil and gasoline products around the world,” says Matthew Conde, public affairs director for AAA Idaho. “The middle class is rapidly expanding in China and India. OPEC continues its oil production cuts. Latin and South America need U.S. fuel to counter their refinery issues. Eleven of these market forces are making crude oil and gas prices more volatile.”
“Today, the national average price for a gallon of gas is $2.53, -- which is four cents lower than a month ago, but 23 cents higher than a year ago,” Conde said. In the Gem State, a gallon of gas is $2.57, the same as a month ago -- and thirteen cents higher than a year ago. U.S. and Idaho gas prices have been within a nickel of each other for most of the winter and, currently, Idaho ranks 17th for the most expensive pump prices in the country.
“Last year, the United States exported a tremendous amount of crude oil, topping the 10 million barrels/day mark for the first time since the 1970s,” Conde explained. “That trend is expected to continue, with exports likely to exceed 11 million barrels per day later this year. Mexico is a hot market at the moment, with additional exports being shipped to the Caribbean, South America, and West Africa. Some experts say that the U.S. Gulf Coast refineries have become the supplier to the world.”
This spring, a number of Gulf Coast refineries will go offline to complete deferred maintenance. In an effort last year to avoid further complicating conditions in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, several regional refineries postponed fall maintenance to keep producing needed gas supplies. “With spring maintenance season fast approaching and the switch to more-expensive summer-blend fuel close behind, refineries will have to catch up on maintenance, and many U.S. drivers could feel the pinch at the pump that may result,” Conde said.
In the Rockies, gas prices could be somewhat insulated from international impact, but experts say local demand will certainly be a contributing factor heading into the spring.
“If the spring and summer drive seasons get an early jump in Idaho and in neighboring states, it could definitely apply upward pressure to an already active market,” said Conde.
The second quarter 2018 is expected to be the most expensive second quarter for gasoline since 2014, according to reports.
A new AAA survey shows that 40 percent of drivers would begin modifying their driving behavior when gas prices reach $3 per gallon.
“Travel demand has been very strong, both nationally and regionally, over the past few years,” Conde pointed out. “While no one is happy about paying more for gas, it seems likely that most motorists will tighten the belt in other ways -- including their shopping and dining habits -- to offset vacation plans this spring.”