BOISE — At the beginning of this year, Idaho drivers had plenty to celebrate –- gas prices, which started to drop after Labor Day last year, continued to plummet for most of the winter. At one point, Idaho’s average price was $2.29 per gallon, which was 32nd in the country for most expensive fuel (experts say we’re usually in the seventh- to ninth-place range) – and then, from February 18 to April 18, Idaho’s average price also dipped below the national average.
But now, according to the Idaho AAA, that savings have come to an end.
On Monday, the U.S. average price for a gallon of unleaded is $2.89, which is nineteen cents more than a month ago and eight cents more than a year ago. “While the current price in Idaho is $3.02, there is a small silver lining of sorts -– today’s price is 48 cents more than a month ago, but it’s still six cents less than a year ago,” said Idaho AAA spokesman Matt Conde.
And what’s more, AAA expects prices to increase in the weeks leading up to Memorial Day.
“On Friday, Idaho’s average price topped three dollars for the first time this year, primarily due to increased demand and reduced refinery capacity during a time of seasonal maintenance,” Conde explained.
"When refineries make the switch to the more expensive summer-blend fuels, they usually take the opportunity to catch up on maintenance and repairs," he added. "In the Rockies region, refinery utilization is generally in the 91 to 93 percent range; but last week, overall utilization dropped to 81 percent. That means there is less fuel on hand to meet the growing demand."
To put rising pump prices into perspective, AAA and OPIS recently measured how much extra time a person would have to work to pay for a gallon of gas today versus the beginning of the year. “At this time, the average worker in seven Idaho counties would have to work an extra minute or two for every gallon of gas -- Clearwater, Lewis, Gem, Ada, Canyon, Payette, and Kootenai. That number sounds small, but for motorists who may need to fill up each week, it can add up in a hurry, requiring hours of extra work over the course of the year just to break even,” Conde said.
“As part of AAA’s research on travel trends, we’ve learned that most people won’t adjust their vacation plans until pump prices are at $3.50 or above,” he added. “Because fuel is the lifeblood of the road trip, people may make adjustments in other areas, such as cheaper dining options, to help offset the additional expense.”
Here’s a look at gas prices around the Gem State:
American Falls, $2.91
Bonners Ferry, $3.07
Coeur d’Alene, $2.98
Dalton Gardens, $2.98
Glenns Ferry, $3.16
Hayden Lake, $2.96
Horseshoe Bend, $3.10
Idaho Falls, $2.92
Island Park, $3.19
Lava Hot Springs, $3
Mountain Home, $3.06
New Meadows, $3.21
New Plymouth, $3.14
Post Falls, $3
Twin Falls, $3.02