Atlanta gas prices up -- just when drivers are using more, thanks to the I-85 collapse

Gas prices in metro Atlanta seem stable at the moment, but they are a dime-a-gallon higher than a month ago.

Overall, 2017 prices are running about 20 cents a gallon higher than they were a year ago: Currently, gasoline averages about $2.31 a gallon in the region – although it ranges from $2.09 to $2.89, depending where you fill up.

A year ago, Atlanta gasoline averaged $2.10 a gallon, according to AAA.

So while gas prices seem stable for the moment, the trend toward rising prices is especially unwelcome right now, when more people are spending more time crawling along on the highways, thanks to the collapse of a section of I-85.

The result of the more intense congestion is, of course, the consumption of even more gas than usual, thousands of gallons whose fumes drift into the air and send drivers back ever-sooner to the pump.

Common sense says we are using more gasoline these days, said Garrett Townsend, spokesman in Georgia for AAA, The Auto Club Group. "I'd say consumption would rise as detours likely add time to motorists' commutes."

Atlanta is currently the most expensive market in Georgia, according to AAA.

But compared to about three years ago – when gas was more than $3 a gallon – gasoline has been pretty cheap in Atlanta. And that has fueled the tendency of people to drive, he said: Gasoline demand is slightly up from a year ago.

Gas prices are driven mostly by oil prices, which have been climbing worldwide: Oil prices last week were up nearly $2-a-barrel from the week before.

Prices in the United States are, of course, shaped by global markets. Even with the surge of new oil production, the U.S. oil industry produces less than half the oil needed by the country.

As for the local highways, the stress and the cost might possibly chase more people onto MARTA, which would, in turn, mean a little less time spent crawling on the roads.

But in the meantime, the costs – both financial and environmental – are rising.

And that cost is likely to rise more in coming months: gasoline prices typically rise as summer approaches. The price is already higher in Atlanta than the spring peak of 2016, according to GasBuddy.

Average price of a gallon of gasoline in Atlanta

Today                       $2.31

One Week ago       $2.31

One Month ago    $2.21

One Year ago        $2.10

Five years ago      $3.82

Sources: GasBuddy, AAA