Gas prices typically go up in the spring, but as metro Atlanta drivers are seeing, this is worse than usual.
Area prices have risen to an average of $2.67 a gallon for regular, which is 17 cents higher than a month ago and 38 cents a gallon higher than a year ago, according to Gas Buddy, which operates the Atlanta Gas Prices web site.
“You can thank oil’s theatrics,” said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis for Gas Buddy.
“This is all about the rising price of oil, which hit $69 a barrel last week,” DeHaan said.
A year ago, oil was selling for less than $50 a barrel. In contrast, in early 2014, a barrel of oil was selling for more than $100.
On Monday, news about increased U.S. inventories sent prices down nearly $1 a barrel. But even if that price drop continues, it will take several weeks for the change to flow through the system to the pump.
And with hedge funds and other investors doubling down on oil, there isn’t likely to be a sustained drop.
Gas prices in metro Atlanta are the highest they’ve been since last year’s spike following the pounding that Hurricanes Irma and Harvey gave to the Caribbean and the Texas coast. That spike, to about $2.78 a gallon in Atlanta, was short-lived.
This time, the rise is seasonal – just more intense than the past two years.
This year’s climb echoes — and seems poised to challenge – the rise of 2015 when prices peaked in early June at $2.84 a gallon. That level is potentially in reach, DeHaan said.
“I think that’s going to be a close call,” he said. “I’d say there’s 60 percent chance we’ll break that in Atlanta.”
Still, without an unusual event, it seems unlikely that prices come anywhere near the levels of 2014, when Atlanta prices reached an average of $3.72 a gallon in late spring.
And while OPEC has a smaller share of the global market than a generation ago, how much its members pump does have an effect on world prices. That influence lately has been aimed at keeping prices from falling too far, something that has geopolitical impact.
“OPEC has been remarkably successful in better aligning supply to demand,” DeHaan said.
U.S. production has undercut that impact during the past few years. However, the nation’s largest shale field has been coping with pipeline shortages and other delivery problems.
Which likely means higher oil prices.
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