As state tax returns, gas prices again break above $3

Editor’s note: Story has been corrected to note a recent increase in the state fuel tax.

The average price of metro Atlanta gas prices has again crossed the $3-a-gallon line — this time heading in the wrong direction.

Late Tuesday, the regional average was $3.07 per gallon, up 27 cents from a week earlier, after six weeks below the $3 line, according to Gas Buddy, which tracks fuel prices nationally.

The sudden bump has come since the return of the state fuel tax last Wednesday, 10 months after the fee was suspended by Gov. Brian Kemp during a sharp spike in prices. Last year’s soaring prices were pegged mostly to the Russian invasion of Ukraine along with the growing demand from the U.S. economy.

The fuel tax, which is used for the state’s highway maintenance and construction, adds 31.2 cents to the price of each gallon. So the average rise indicates that some stations have not — at least for the moment — passed along the entire tax to drivers at the pump.

Others seemingly have — and then some. A Decatur BP, for example, this week charging 40 cents per gallon more than before the return of the tax.

Not all the increases are due to the return of the fuel tax.

Overall wholesale prices for gasoline have been rising nationally, so prices would have inched up anyhow. Still, most of the boost seems to have from the re-imposition of the fuel tax, since the national average — that is, states where a change in the tax was not a factor — rose just 3 cents a gallon in the past week.

Even with the increase, gas in Atlanta and across the state remains cheaper than the national average of $3.31 a gallon.

Georgia-wide, the most expensive metro for gas was Brunswick, averaging above $3.16 a gallon, according Montrae Waiters, spokeswoman for AAA-The Auto Club Group.

“Gas prices continue to rise across the U.S. Unfortunately, we can’t predict how high gas prices will rise,” she said.

Prices — so far — are still lower than a year ago, when they averaged $3.12 a gallon in metro Atlanta. That was before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which roiled world oil markets, which are the largest factor in the price of gas. Climbing oil prices rippled into prices at the pump, sending gas prices to a crest of $4.54 a gallon in metro Atlanta in June — even after the suspension of the gas tax.

However, in the months after, oil production picked up, and gas prices fell.

But the price of diesel fuel did not fall in tandem, partly because its production competes with jet fuel and home heating oil. Diesel fuel mid-Tuesday was selling for up to $5.31 a gallon in metro Atlanta, although there were some stations selling it at $3.99 a gallon.

Those high diesel prices have contributed to inflation because at least some of the increases are passed from truckers to merchants to consumers. But they have squeezed many smaller trucking companies and individual truckers who cannot pass along the charges.

Typically, gas prices bottom out in mid-winter and then start to rise in spring as more drivers take to the road. Historically, prices peak in late spring as families take vacation trips. However, late summer storms that close refineries and drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico often send prices spiking again.

Average price of gas per gallon, metro Atlanta

Tuesday: $3.07

Week ago: $2.80

Month ago: $2.80

Year ago: $3.12

Source: Gas Buddy