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Atlanta gas prices likely to climb from here

See that in your rear-view mirror? That’s this year’s low gas prices.

You’ve probably already seen as low as prices will go for 2019.

Gas prices have edged up the past few days from three-year lows, and increases are likely to continue through late in the spring, thanks to a mix of national and global forces, according to experts.

Even though the United States has become the world’s leading oil producer, prices are affected by global supply and demand.

And in recent weeks, the supply-side forces that pushed prices to the floor have started to shift. The glut of oil on the world market has been ebbing, partly because the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Counties and Russia have changed their pumping policies.

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“We’re starting to see oil prices rise as OPEC cuts production and puts pressure on the market,” said Garrett Townsend, spokesman for AAA in Georgia.

There are potential shortage issues closer to home: The crisis in Venezuela has meant a large drop in the amount of oil it ships to the United States.

“In a week or so, the U.S. should be short a half million barrels per day of heavy crude oil,” James Williams, president of WTRG Economics, an energy research and consulting company.

There are ways for American refineries to replace the oil, he said. “The most obvious is to buy more from Persian Gulf countries, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, but that means a 30- to 60-day shipping delay in its arrival.”

If the government wants to soften the price hike, it could release oil from the nation’s reserve, he said.

But prices will probably rise anyhow, because of seasonal changes in production. American refineries must change their process as summer approaches, since they will need to churn out a lower-polluting blend of gasoline for the hot weather.

That change is costly, and it will nudge prices up – the way it typically does, said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for Gas Buddy.

“The next two weeks offer a final shot for low gas prices,” he said. “Since 2009, the national average has risen on average 25 cents per gallon in the 10 weeks after Valentine’s Day.”

In January, Georgia gas prices averaged $2.10 per gallon – 32 cents per gallon less than a year earlier, according to AAA.

Even in metro Atlanta, where prices averaged about seven cents a gallon higher than statewide, a number of outlets were selling gas below $2 a gallon. Lowest among them was a Costco in Woodstock at $1.90 a gallon, according to AtlantaGasPrices.com.

The lowest-priced free-standing station was a Chevron in Lawrenceville that was charging $1.96 – if you paid in cash.

At the other end of the spectrum was another Chevron, this one on Peachtree Road in Atlanta, charging $2.89 a gallon.

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